Business is at stand still in the commercial city of Blantyre as minibus drivers and conductors are staging a protest against newly introduced strict regulations enforced by the traffic police department.
Despite Minibus Owners Association of Malawi (Moam) condemning the protest on Thursday, commuters woke up to a surprise this morning as no minibus is operating within Blantyre city and people are being forced to walk to work or their designated business places.
The situation is currently getting out of hand in some parts of the city especially in Bangwe and on Zingwangwa-Chilobwe route as the disgruntled minibus drivers and conductors have started blocking roads with stones while burning tyres, stopping vehicles that are offering to ferry stranded commuters.
They are chanting on the roads while questioning other vehicles carrying many passengers on board.
Nyasa Times can confirm that police have rushed in to calm the situation by firing teargas, which might compound the situation.
However, some minibuses have defied the protest and are operating especially on Ndirande-Limbe route.
According to information Nyasa Times has gathered, the drivers and conductors met yesterday and agreed to abandon work inorder to force authorities to ease on them especially on the new road operating regulations.
In one of Whatsapp circulated messages amongst the drivers and conductors, they claim that now are being forced to pay K20,000 or face 5-year jail term if found carrying maize bags or any heavy luggage; to pay K150,000 or face 5-year-jail term for exceeding sitting capacity; to pay K20,000 or 5-year-jail term for wrong parking.
“Izi zabwera kamba kuchuluka kwa ngozi mMalawi muno (this is so due to increased accidents on the roads of Malawi),” reads in part the message.
Parliament last month endorsed a proposal stopping buses from carrying standing passengers and that all buses should be fitted with seat belts.
The proposal also demands that minibuses should only be operating on designated routes identified by color code and route numbering and that drivers or conductors should face hefty fines or jail term for failing to adhere to regulations.
Moam secretary general Coxley Kamange told the media that they have negotiated with the police so that “any minibus operator who will choose to do his normal daily routine should be protected”.
Meanwhile, in Lilongwe and Mzuzu the situation is reported to be normal.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :