Many Malawians debated at length following the ugly protests by minibus drivers and conductors in defiance to new regulations and their stiff fines if not followed.
Commenting on Facebook, Mankhokwe Namusanya said the extreme punitive measures cannot protect people from accidents and the harsh fines and sentences are not deterrent factors to minibus drivers and pseudo-capitalist bus owners.
“If anything, harsh sentences make the roads less safer, far risky. They push corruption on the roads to unimaginable proportions.
“Who would, in their right minds, pay a fine of say K150,000 when an officer says you can settle your crime for K10,000 or less? Which patriot would agree to serve a five-year sentence for a traffic offence when an officer says you can talk it through (with a K20,000)?
“Those harsh measures, even if you decorate them with another extreme of a death penalty for offending drivers, will not protect us. They are an endorsement of corruption, only now getting to be more beneficial for the officers on the roads.”
Stella Kamanga agreed with Namusanya, saying the new regulations are just giving more morale to ccorruption among traffic officers and bus drivers.
“The laws were already there, but the traffic officers were not enforcing them. What is the guarantee that now they will be enforced? I don’t see any. I also don’t think this is a solution,” she said.
Others attacked the drivers and conductors for staging the protests that ground most parts of the cities to a halt.
George Mkandawire asked: “Why saying NO to these new traffic laws? Every law has a loophole and am 100 percent in support of these new traffic regulations. Why should a minibus driver or conductor insult a passenger when asking “Tikhala 4-4″ umva “Mukagule yanu” sichipongwe ichi? apa zisakome lero. Palibe zachisoni apa malamulo agwire ntchito yake basi (when we are forced to sit four in a line instead of three and we ask why, we are insulted in return. They tell us to buy our own buses. Don’t relent to their demands. The law must be applied),” Mkandawire said.
Matthews Nyirenda agreed, saying the drivers and conductors insult passengers with impunity and that passengers are forced to sit four in a line when the drivers realise the traffic police have left the streets.
Innocent Kanyerere suggested that these minibuses should not have conductors but that the passengers should be paying to the driver as they board.
“So we have unruly drivers and conductors who can go rampant and torch down police stations?” said Chisambiro Eliah. “After all when this decree has passed what next? Honestly as poor as we are surely we having a raw deal from these minibus operators.
“Some of these minibuses are not roadworthy but still they are plying our roads. Next thing the government has to intervene on quality minibuses to trade on our roads. It’s high time government barred Vannettes on the road and let people use big buses].
“But this can only be achieved if government can remove taxes on these big buses and let Malawians to import them on duty free. In Dar es Salaam, [Tanzania] the government banned all Hiaces to commute in Dar and they achieved . Why not do the same here?
“Malawi as a country we are not moving forward. In this 21st Century we need to have long term solutions in terms of transport. There was less traffic on Blantyre roads [on Friday]. This only tells you congestion comes in because of minibuses.”
Lawyer Innocent Kalua suggested that government should banish all minibuses from the streets: “Let the City Councils take over. Invite tenders from reputable companies to run public transport services in the cities with certain strict threshold requirements… And viola! We have killed mediocrity on our highways.
“And who knows, if they deliver a good service a good number of us will dump our cars for public transport. Do the same for taxi services and you will reduce those drunk and driving accidents. Otherwise we are stuck with mediocrity for the next 100 years.
Zalimba Khanje suggested that traffic police should be removed from carrying out their duties and insisted the Road Traffic Directorate should take charge of their duties.