Government has ruled out demands by minibus 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, checking excess speeding 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.
Chiponda said minibus transport constitutes over 90 percent of urban passenger transport, therefore, any disturbance 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Speaker Sir, the transport system in Lilongwe has completely been crippled because minibus drivers and conductors have withdrawn labour in protest against the new punitive measures the government has put in place to ensure safety of the people on the roads of Malawi,” she said.
She said it was a concern that some minibus drivers drink and drive, they park their vehicles anyhow, they reverse their vehicles without even following rules and pick passengers anyhow, among others.
The issue attracted a lot of comments from other backbenchers both from the government and opposition side with Karonga Central MP, Frank Mwenifumbo, saying it is possible to have a safe and efficient transport system only if there is political will.
“The government should come up with policies that will enable businessmen to invest vigorously in the transport sector so that we have good and safe minibuses,” he said.
Salima North West MP, Jessie Kabwila, said there are several factors which cause road accidents in the country which include poor road network, narrow roads without shoulders, the corrupt licence issuance system, expensive tyres which force bus operators to use wornout tyres.
Chiradzulu East MP, Henry Mussa, said there was need to have a policy that would enable minibus operators to fix carriers on top of their vehicles or have trailers for goods instead of having a rule which bars minibuses from taking goods, saying this was impractical.
The MPs were then debating on how best the issue can be sent to the Transport Committee of Parliament for further scrutiny and recommendations.
Meanwhile, there was chaos in some parts of Lilongwe City as some drivers burnt tyres to force all drivers to withdraw labour.
The situation was tense in areas 23, 49 and 18 as drivers also agreed to hike fares.
Minibus Owners Association of Malawi (Moam) Regional Chairperson, Alick Sakala, said since the new rules require that minibuses should have three passengers per seat, customers should comply with the new fare so that minibus operators should make a profit.
The fares have been adjusted to a maximum of K600 within the city.
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