Maputo — A Mozambican bus company whose activities have been suspended for three months by the Transport Ministry has claimed that this decision is the work of its competitors.
Last week, Transport Minister Gabriel Muthisse ordered the Nampula-based company, Maning Nice, off the roads. The suspension was to begin on 14 April and would be reviewed after three months.
The reason given for the ban was the unacceptably high number of accidents involving Maning Nice. Over the past three years, Maning Nice buses have been involved in seven accidents, resulting in 14 deaths. 94 other people were injured. The accidents were blamed on excessive speed.
The company's lawyer, Pedro Ernesto, cited by the independent television station STV, denied the Transport Ministry's claim that Maning Nice had been warned, through fines and meetings, without any effect. He said that at no moment had the company received any written warning or complaint about the behaviour of its drivers.
There had been just one meeting, chaired by the General Commander of the police, Jorge Khalau, attended by several transport companies, including Maning Nice. Ernesto claimed that during the meeting Khalau had expressed an interest in closing down Maning Nice.
Ernesto said that “high ranking figures in the Ministry of the Interior” (whom he did not name), and who have interests in inter-provincial passenger transport, had persuaded Muthisse to suspend Maning Nice. In other words, he accused the Minister of favouring his company's competitors.
Ernesto promised to activate all possible administrative and legal mechanisms to convince the government to reconsider its decision. He said the suspension damaged the interests of the company, its workers and the travelling public.
He also urged the Ministry to compare Maning Nice's safety record with that of other companies operating on the same routes.
But the Association of Mozambican Transporters (AMOTRANS) applauded the suspension and urged the Ministry to do the same to other companies found to be endangering their passengers.
AMOTRANS Managing Director Paulino Muthisse said “the suspension is welcome, because we have been witnessing the loss of human lives on the public highway, and the owners of the companies are doing nothing to improve the situation”.
He said the root of the problem was the targets set by the employers. “It's systematic”, he said. “The companies have targets and timetables, and to achieve them the drivers do not respect speed limits. As a result lives are lost”.
Paulino Muthisse did not believe that the suspension of Maning Nice would seriously affect passenger transport. “We have enough buses to meet the demand”, he said.