Maputo — The Maputo municipal authorities did not detect many cases of outright price speculation during the festive season – but they did discover cases of traders falsifying the weight of the goods they sold.
Interviewed by AIM on Thursday, the spokesperson for the Maputo municipal police, Jochua Lai, said that 85 sacks of potatoes were seized which weighed much less than the standard 10 kilos.
“They reduced the number of potatoes in the sacks, and so when we re-weighed them we found that some of the sacks contained eight or 8.2 kilos”, he said.
Rather than raise the prices, these traders had cut the weight. The customers were thus obtaining fewer potatoes than they had paid for, and the police regard this as theft.
When a trader is caught committing this offence, the products are seized.
If he re-offends, he will lose his stall in the municipal markets for six months or a year. Seizures of underweight goods occurred in the four days prior to Xmas. No further incidents were reported and the situation seems to have normalized.
A similar offence is the use of scales that have been altered. The police seized nine such corrupted scales. The scales had never been inspected by the market directorate of the City Council, and so did not bear the stamp guaranteeing that their readings were true.
Lai also claimed that the number of transport operators who cheat their passengers by shortening their routes has declined sharply.
The City Council authorised fare increases of up to 40 per cent for the minibuses (known colloquially as “chapas”), but promised the travelling public that there would be tighter inspection to guarantee that the chapas operate the routes for which they are licensed and do not cut them in half.
The fare for a journey of up to 10 kilometres rose from five to seven meticais (from 17 to 24 US cents), while for a ride of more than 10 kilometres the fare rose from 7.5 to nine meticais.
The new fares took effect on 15 November, “and since that date there has been a great reduction in the number of complaints that chapa operators are shortening their routes”, said Lai
Nonetheless, between 15 November and 31 December there were 288 complaints.
These resulted in the temporary seizure of 203 chapas until their owners paid fines ranging between 1,000 and 3,000 meticais. On a second offence, the driver concerned loses his licence for a period.
Lai said the municipal police had decided to be implacable towards chapa operators who break the rules.
Despite complaints by chapa operators that the police are being over-zealous, and that the fare increase was not enough to cover their costs, as far as the municipal authorities are aware, none of the chapa owners have abandoned their businesses.