Member of parliament for Kasungu south east Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda on Tuesday took the government to task to explain what it is doing to end the strike by minibus drivers and conductors which virtually crippled the transport system in the capital, Lilongwe on Tuesday.
This follows the government decision to impose stiffer penalties on road traffic offences.
“What is the government, to be more specific the police, the ministry of Transport and Public Works and the Road Traffic Directorate doing to ensure that the misunderstanding between minibus drivers and conductors on one hand and the government on the other, is ironed out as this has crippled the transport system in the country,” she said.
She said minibus transport constitutes over 90 percent of urban passenger transport therefore any disturbances cripples the whole transport system mainly in urban areas, including the Capital City, Lilongwe.
“As I am standing here, Mr Speaker Sir, the transport system in Lilongwe has completely been crippled because minibus drivers and conductors have withdrawn labour in protest against the new punitive measures the government has put in place to ensure safety of the people on the roads of Malawi,” she said.
Most minibuses were parked on Tuesday and those that were on the road doubled or tripled their fares, forcing some workers to be late from work or absent from work all together because of the high fares which they could not afford.
Police were called in at Sent, a shanty township after Area 18 when some drivers and conductors blocked a road to force other minibus operators withdrew their minibuses.
Khumbize Kandodo said the new punitive measures are to the advantage of passengers, who are the people the MPs represent in this august House.
“We all know that some minibus drivers drink these hard but cheap spirits whilst on duty, they park their vehicles anyhow, they reverse their vehicles without even following rules and in the process hit other stationary vehicles, they pick passengers anyhow, anywhere without due regard to traffic rules,” she said.
She said she knew of a woman who had a wound after she was injured in a minibus and was infected with tetanus which forced her to be in hospital for more than a month.
“We have reports of clothes torn because of these sharp metals which hold the chairs yet minibus operators seem not to care as long as the bus brings them money everyday,” she said.
She said councils can take over the running of transport in their respective cities or towns, saying councils can invite tenders from reputable companies to run public transport services in the cities with certain strict threshold measures, that way, there will be order in the way public transport is run.
She said some executive officers, even honourable members of parliament and cabinet ministers, can abandon their vehicles and use public transport after being attracted by the sanity in the public transport sector.
Government has ruled out demands by bus drivers and conductors to soften penalties for traffic offences, saying the rising road carnage which has led to loss of lives in recent times is a concern.
Minister of Transport and Public Works Jappie Mhango was answering a question from Kasungu south east MP Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda who asked Mhango on the current spate of protests by minibus drivers and conductors following the government decision to impose stiffer penalties on road traffic offences.
Mhango said the police will continue to enforce seating capacity limits, curbing on drink and drive incidents, curbing on overspeeding and stopping loading of goods in minibuses.
“Following these strict measures, there has been an outcry. However, we will continue with discussions with minibus operators so that we find a lasting solution to the problem,” he said.
Minibus drivers and conductors went on violent protests on Friday followed by their counterparts in Mzuzu and Karonga on Saturday.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :