Minibus abuses: Enough is enough!

If one follows public reaction to complaints by the Minibus Owners Association of Malawi (MOAM), it is obvious most of the travelling public is dissatisfied, to say the least, with minibuses.

The problems with minibuses are not new; badly serviced vehicles, careless drivers, rude conductors, overcrowding, uncomfortable seats, overpricing, speeding etc. Instead of treating the passenger as king, the minibus business chooses to treat the passenger as a victim.

It is little wonder that most drivers and conductors are either former or would be criminals. Government and minibus owners choose to ignore the plight of passenger with some sectors such as the traffic police using the flagrant violation of laws as an opportunity to profit.

Minibus on Malawi roads

The fact that some legislators are also minibus owners may explain the reluctance on the part of government to deal with this the awful state of minibus travel. In all this, the average citizen is clearly the loser.

MOAM’s threat to “occupy parliament” presents a unique opportunity for government to deal with this elephant in the room. MOAM cannot be allowed to profit while continually trampling on the rights of passengers, ignoring complaints of the travelling public and having utter disregard for public safety.

Most minibuses are little more than rolling death-traps. How many people are killed or injured by being pierced by the metal parts of those flimsy collapsing seats in minibuses. We never hear Mr. Coxley Kamange  or Mr. Chisesele come out to address issues of public concern or even offer condolences when minibuses are involved in all too often in fatal accidents.

Have they ever gone to visit or comfort victims of such accidents? The only times they ever speak is on issues affecting their bottom line. Saying “it is a difficult business” does not justify the suffering of passengers.  It is high time we the citizens asserted our rights as consumers to be treated fairly by MOAM  nd to enjoy the protections afforded by our government.

In the interest of promoting small business and easing travel in the country, government can indeed offer concessions to minibus owners such as; reduced or no duty on imported minibuses (5 years old or less), flexible conditions on payment of insurance, priority fuelling at select stations, tax rebates on maintenance and safety purchases etc.

In return, minibuses must adhere to more stringent regulations: There should be no overcrowding, set per kilometre fares, suspension of licenses and punitive fines for drivers involved in accidents or caught in unsafe driving, frequent inspection of minibuses to ensure all comfort and safety standards are met, accountability for rude staff, liability of minibus owners for deaths and injuries sustained in their busses and other measures. Any negotiation should result in a win-win situation with the ultimate goal being the benefit of the travelling public.

It is good that MOAM has treated to take action against parliament on what they perceive to be a threat to their business. By their actions that have now opened the door for us the citizens to take action against the very real threat to our lives.

Any moves by parliament to ease the concerns of MOAM must be preceded by moves to protect the lives and wellbeing of the travelling public. Should this opportunity be missed once more, government must be held accountable.

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