The persistent fuel scarcity Malawi has been experiencing for sometime now is biting hard on ordinary citizens with minibuses charging any amount that comes to their mind.
The minibuses are also carelessly breaking road traffic regulations by carrying more passengers than the recommended sitting capacity.
Regulations require minibuses to carry only three passengers per row but the drivers are packing four and in some circumstances five passengers per row, a situation that has brought anxiety among commuters.
Snap survey by Nyasa Times in most minibus routes in the commercial capital of Blantyre has revealed that most minibuses are illegally raising their fares by an additional K20 or K10 per passenger.
For instance, minibuses operating the Limbe – Chigumula Market route are charging K100 instead of the set fare of K80.
The same was also observed on minibuses plying the Limbe-Machinjiri, Limbe-Blantyre via Highway, Limbe-Chirimba, Blantyre-Chadzunda, among others, where the fares were being charged with an additional K10 or K20.
The drivers argue that they cannot do otherwise but to breach the road traffic rules and unlawfully hike the fares because the fuel shortage has become intolerable.
“We are in business and we will do everything to make sure that our business is not affected. There is no fuel and we are being forced to buy it at exorbitant prices from black market,” said Billy Filemoni who operates on Blantyre-Chilobwe route.
He said on average a litre of petrol costs K600 which is more than twice the recommended price.
“So how do we recover this money? The only solution is to hike the fare or ignore the recommended seating capacity,” he added.
However, General Secretary of the Minibus Owners Association of Malawi (MOAM) Coxley Kamange described the situation as dangerous and punishable.
“We are just appealing to passengers to report to us whichever minibus is doing that. It s dangerous for any driver to do that and once found such people will certainly be punished heavily. We all need money and we have to be orderly. As MOAM, we have not hiked the fares despite the losses we are all encountering due to the fuel crisis,” said Kamange.
The country has been in serious fuel shortage for some months now despite continued assurance from government and other authorities that the situation will soon be normalized.
At the moment the situation keeps worsening and there are no signals of improvement at least soon.
At some point the then Minister of Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Grain Malunga bluntly told Malawians to get used to the situation.
First Lady Callista Mutharika also angered Malawians when she said the fuel shortage had no any effect on ordinary citizens because they do not own vehicles.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :