By Jameson Chauluka, Tiyese Monjeza & Josephine Chipofya:
Minibus Owners Association of Malawi (Moam) has called off the strike it announced in protest against the toll gate fee of K3400 at Chingeni.
Moam Secretary- General Coxley Kamange confirmed the development, saying they have called off the strike to pave way for continued dialogue with the government.
“We had gathered at Chingeni Tollgate but after further engagements with government, we decided to call off the strike. We will instead continue engaging government on the development,” he said.
The minibus operators themselves were divided over the strike, with some of the minibuses on the road despite the strike.
The list of tollgate fees shows that light vehicles will be paying K1,700 while trucks that carry abnormal load will be paying K20,000 for a one-way trip.
On top of that, 17 to 31-seater buses and 2 to 5-tonne trucks would be paying K5,100 while drivers of vehicles weighing between 5 to 10 tonnes would be coughing K7,000, with K8,000 being applicable to trucks weighing more than 10 tonnes.
There were some pockets of muted protests of the minibus operators marching along the M1 Road in Chirimba and Ndirande in Blantyre.
Many people were seen stranded at bus stops while others resorted to walking during the morning hours.
In Zomba, there was drama as angry minibus operators, and some community’s detained two buses belonging to AXA Bus Service and Ulemu Bus Service.
The operators, who were later joined by communities detained the buses heading to Blantyre and forced the passengers to disembark from the vehicles.
The buses were allowed to proceed over an hour later after the drivers had lengthy discussions with the minibus operators.
Later, the communities started demanding money from people in their vehicles passing through the road and, in some cases, were stoned.
The protests were also held in Mzuzu but business was largely normal.
Some minibus operators in the city said they had not been informed of the strike, adding that there is no tollgate in the Northern Region.
One of them, Osman Bangala, operating on the Mzuzu-Dwangwa route said while the fees are exorbitant, they could not go on strike as the tollgates are not in their region yet.
“We agree with our counterparts in the other regions that the toll fees are exorbitant but we could not go on strike with them because the tollgates are not here,” said Bangala.
Business was also normal in Lilongwe, with minibuses operating.