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Minibus owners refute reports of seating-capacity change

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NO THROUGH ROAD — The
protesters broke a public road in
Chirimba Township, forcing the motorist to turn back

By Thomas Kachere, Jameson Chauluka, Tiyese Monjeza & Mathews Kasanda:

In the chaos of Tuesday, when minibus conductors and drivers wreaked havoc on public roads and engaged in running battles with police, Minibus Owners Association of Malawi (Moam) has settled all misunderstandings by announcing that the per-seat carrying capacity remains two.

Reports were rife Tuesday, when the dust settled on public roads and the protesters went back to their work stations, that Moam and government officials had agreed to increase the passenger carrying-capacity from two to three.

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Southern Region Moam Chairperson Peter Mvalo said there was no development to that effect, maintaining that capacity remains two people per seat.

“The news about a change in capacity is fake and it has been cooked by some people to achieve their personal goals. Even the Minister of Information, whom we have just spoken to, has said there is no such development,’’ Mvalo said.

Mvalo said it is not correct to defy government’s order of two people per seat, which was set aside to protect passengers from catching coronavirus.

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Moam General Secretary Coxley Kamange concurred with his colleague, further bemoaning the conduct of demonstrators that were seen beating up those that were operating on public roads.

Kamange further urged minibus operators to monitor drivers and conductors and ensure that Covid preventive measures were being followed.

In a related development, drivers and Conductors Association of Malawi Chairperson Chifundo Kandoje also dispelled reports that they had discussed the issue of capacity change with government officials.

He said people with ill motives spread the news.

Kandoje has, therefore, called for calm as the government is working on their concerns.

Before the three officials clarified matters in the afternoon, there was relative calm in Lilongwe, where minibuses operated normally except in areas such as Area 25 and Msundwe, where there were few minibuses than usual until around 12pm.

Some operators told The Daily Times that the main strike was supposed to take place on Wednesday [today] after they received communication to that effect.

The few that put down their tools indicated that they wanted a change in seating capacity.

“For instance, from Chinsapo Township to town, we charge K300. If I carry two passengers per seat, it means I will have K2,100, which is only enough for fuel,” said one of the drivers.

However, chaos was the order of the day in Blantyre, where conductors and drivers engaged in running battles with police.

We found scores of people walking from townships to Blantyre Central Business District.

In the townships, protesters blocked roads and forced passengers to disembark from vehicles.

However, police tried their best to put the situation under control.

In Zomba, protesters that blocked the M3 Road engaged in running battles with police.

The protests started at around 6 o’clock in the morning, with workers and businesspersons forced to walk on foot to their respective work and business places.

Over 100 armed police officers raided a number of spots, firing teargas canisters at protesters, who retaliated by throwing stones at the law enforcers.

For close to six hours, areas between Zomba Central Business District and Chinamwali Township were no-go zones.

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