Maputo — The new bus fares for both publicly and private owned passenger vehicles will take effect as from Thursday, according to the Maputo City Councillor for Transport, Joao Matlombe.
The new fares were agreed in principle by the Maputo municipal authorities in late October, but could only take effect after discussions with the neighbouring city of Matola, since the bus routes cover both cities.
For the buses of the municipal bus company TPM, the flat rate fare will rise from five to seven meticais (from 17 to 24 US cents).
For the privately owned minibuses (colloquially known as “chapas”) the increase is the same for distances of up to ten kilometers. For journeys longer than this, the fare rises from 7.5 to nine meticais.
“This fare rise seeks essentially to stimulate the private transport sector to continue investing, and to guarantee that TPM, which now has over 250 buses, can put its entire fleet on the roads and increase its revenue”, said Matlombe on Monday.
The fare rise is also intended to persuade chapa owners to run their vehicles over the full length of the routes for which they have been licensed, instead of cutting them in half so that passengers are forced to pay for two rides rather than one.
Matlombe said that the Municipal Police will be on the lookout for any “route shortening” by chapas.
“Our undertaking is to guarantee that the operators comply with the routes and our police have been instructed to guarantee full inspection and impartiality”, he said. “But the best inspector is the passenger, who should not agree to pay twice before reaching his destination”.
The current tariff has been in force since 2004, and since then the operational costs for both TPM and the chapas have risen significantly – including wages, fuel and lubricants, tyres, spare parts and maintenance.
The increase in fuel costs has been cushioned by a subsidy on the diesel used by licensed chapas. That subsidy holds the price of diesel to 31 meticais a litre - whenever the price goes above this, the government is committed to paying licensed chapa owners the difference. The current price of diesel at the Maputo pumps is 36.81 meticais per litre. Chapa owners say that this subsidy does not compensate for the rise in all their other costs.
Bus fares are a very sensitive issue. The last time an attempt was made to hike the fares was in February 2008 – it resulted in severe rioting for a day on the streets of Maputo, and the sacking of the then Transport Minister Antonio Mungwambe.
The rioters attacked both chapas and publicly owned buses, and threw up barricades on many of Maputo's main thoroughfares. The police were completely unprepared for the scale of the rioting. Within 24 hours the fare rise was withdrawn, replaced by the current diesel subsidy.