The fight for fareness

First, the dreaded news: fuel prices have gone up. That thought made each step towards Bridge a little more difficult than the last. Of course, the newspapers reported that fares would increase by the not-so-round figure of 18%. Past experiences told me that this was mere theory. It turned out to be exactly the case. In the trotro, a woman shouted from the back in thick Twi, “Mate, how much is it to Accra?” Being most commuters’ first trip since the bombshell was dropped, everyone seemed to hang on to the mate’s reply, hearts in their mouths. Conversation hushed. A dozen pairs of ears appeared to gravitate towards the mate’s general direction. It was like waiting for a declaration of independence.

With much less grace than any such pronouncement would require, the mate, shifting his chewing stick from one cheek to the other, turned flatly towards his waiting audience. Preceded by a fragment of chewed wood, he spewed out loudly and emotionlessly, “Seventy pesewas!” Without waiting for the gasps and popping eyeballs, he continued, “Yeesss, front!”

A young man in a shirt and tie in the middle row was irate. He flared up, poking his hands in all directions. He had no time for the small man. No, he was going all the way to the top. With poison in his tone he charged, “Driver, you say it’s how much?” The driver echoed in solidarity to his assistant’s proclamation. The man had had enough. “You can’t tell me that!” He went on to inform the driver that the government had already said how much the fares should go up by. I was scared this would escalate into a gutter fight coated in academic economics. Somehow, I felt the next response from the driver would be for him to buy his own car.

How wrong I was. After taking a lot of abuse from the economic analyst, who by now had calculated that the fares had gone up by nearly 30%, the driver cut the lecture short by asking the man to go and buy his own trotro and reduce his fares for passengers. The pained expression said it all. He eventually went on ranting, but that parting shot had dented whatever authority he possessed.

These scenes are not new. With almost every increase in petroleum prices, transport fares go up as well. The first few days are always the richest for transport operators, because by and large, though the full fare has been announced, the prices for shorter routes were left to the mate’s discretion. In one instance, I could see the mate actually dreaming up his own fare for a lady who got in at Emmanuel Eye Clinic going to Flagstaff House. After presenting his charges, she descended on him in rage and fury, calling all public transport operators cheats and armed robbers. It was comical. A pensioner began to lament loudly about how transport fares were higher now with crude oil at $94 than they were at $147. As he advanced his argument, silently demanding the attention of youth as wisdom spoke, I stifled a laugh, remembering being told rather unfairly by a friend that pensioners do nothing but read the Daily Graphic to point out typos.

I heard of a mate who virtually threw a passenger’s coins back at him, telling him he was five pesewas short. The passenger refused to pay, angrily claiming that he did not have any money left. As the insults got heavier, a Good Samaritan quickly bailed out the passenger before things got bloody.

However, it appears the reverse also happens for commuters who get in, then out, along the way. On one occasion after getting to the office, I calculated that I had paid less than before the fare increments. It was the same the next day. Perhaps, the mate got confused. I considered it sweet payback from the gang who had fleeced me for years.

In your own commute, what has happened after price hikes? Was it all calm? Did people sulk and complain to themselves? Or was a mate one careless statement away from being pounded to pulp? Maybe you could share.

Once at Ridge, I recalculated how much my transport budget would change. In a beat-up Nissan Urvan, I could see a man in the front seat being calmed down as he issued the mate a sound blasting. The only thing missing was smoke puffing out of his ears and nostrils. I wondered to myself how many such similar fights were taking place across the capital, but quickly strangled any pity that welled up within for the mates and drivers. After all, at the end of the day, they would be smiling all the way to the bank with their ill-gotten loot.


About Kwaku Dankwa

By day, I'm an advertising copywriter. That's what I've done all my working life (National Service doesn't count). Husband of Esther, father of Jesse and twin boys Mark and Andrew, and servant of Christ. I previously wrote a blog on the dramatic side of public transport in Accra, "The Daily Commute: From Bridge to Ridge." Enjoy.
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19 Responses to The fight for fareness

  1. Dee Kaye says:

    “Without waiting for the gasps and popping eyeballs, he continued, “Yeesss, front!””
    Hahahahahahahaha, loved this part!

  2. Tetekai says:

    I guess i am the economic analyst. I gave a passenger, who was apparently a mate in another vehicle, a breakdown of fuel prices from the period spanning the last quarter of 2010. The other passengers couldn’t help but smile at the mate’s confusion because he wanted to throw dust in my eyes about the cost of petrol and diesel. Charlie, the fact that i don’t owe a car does not mean i don’t know the price of fuel.
    Good post as usual, Kweku. I enjoy your writing.

  3. Nick says:

    I agree with the person commenting first. That statement is hilarious. Good piece.

  4. kusei says:

    Trotro drivers are now finding new ways to make more money from their customers in Ksi.
    Instead of going straight to kejetia, they’ll annouce to the half way point, like 4 miles. and when they reach that stop, they’ll start calling kejetia!
    only to make an extra 20peswas
    Its like some slick driver from the union stood up from their last meeting and came up with it as a way of dupping people some more! cus a good majority of trotros are doing it.
    Lol, and somehow, transport never gets better.

    • Kwaku Dankwa says:

      Yeah, when I was in Tech they were doing the same thing! And me, going just to Kentinkrono had to pay extra after they’d called Tech. These sly guys. They’ve published the fares in the papers, but do they care? You bet they don’t!

  5. Joseph says:

    hilarious man! it’s perplexing aint it? that fuel prices are higher now, than at other times when oil market prices were higher….hmmmmm..these bloody politicians! to hell with my voters ID!!!

  6. Parbey says:

    This is your first of writings I’ve read…and I couldn’t stop reading. God bless you!!!

    • Kwaku Dankwa says:

      Oh, really? You should read ’em all. I heard they’re pretty good

      And while you’re at it, spread the word … almost like tidings of good news you’ve read, eh? Hehehe…

  7. Sis says:

    Good one there! I laughed all the way through.

  8. Don R says:

    Brilliant work – very well presented. I am still laughing inside moi!!!!!!

  9. Maa Ab says:

    Really, is this a bad omen or what. The very day it was announced that the first boat had arrived to cart away our first consignment of oil for export, was also the day these hefty increases in fuel and fuel products were announced!

  10. RAY JAY says:

    I love readin ur pieces mahn…u shd witness the robbery dat tks place at the odokor station, mates are chargin crazy fares, and people usually hav no choice than to pay up…Thnks.

  11. Philip Boakye Dua Oyinka (Nana Asaase) says:

    The fluidity of your writing is like frothy palm wine in a fresh pot. Kwaku, I won’t attempt to describe anything, lest I fall short….

  12. richard says:

    loved this one mate! 😉

  13. moshi says:

    o this is so great.

    How wrong I was. After taking a lot of abuse from the economic analyst, who by now had calculated that the fares had gone up by nearly 30%, the driver cut the lecture short by asking the man to go and buy his own trotro and reduce his fares for passengers.


    i heard of an experience not really relating to fare increase but a cheating mate. he asked the lady her destination and just as the woman was about answering the question, she handed over the amount of money required for the journey to her. checking the money, he shouted at her in twi, the money no reach. the lady said that is the amount for the journey. they mate retorted with the statement. he is collecting the money whether she like it or not. please pause here. dont try imagining the response of this lady. she said again in twi. unless you eat me here. lol. that broke my lungs. gosh.

  14. Ophelia says:

    I was in Ghana when this change was implemented. I decided to try my luck on a tro tro to have a tale to tell to my peers when I came back and I was not disappointed! I think almost every passenger on the tro tro was ready to throw the mate out the window when he announced that the fare was 1 cedi 20 pesewas from Dome to Accra (I think). I could not believe it!! If I added a few cedis to that, I could have taken a taxi and I would have been much much more comfortable…the Taxi drivers were out of luck cos only Tro Tro drivers had the luxury of raising their fares ridiculously. Needless to say I had a front row center view of World War III and it made my day lol

  15. Efo Dela says:

    When it comes to verbal abuse, mates have no rules of engagements.
    The insults are humiliating and hilarious at the same time.
    Immediately after fuel price increases there’s usually a period of general lawlessness where every driver has his own fare. That is the most annoying period

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