Maputo — Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi on Thursday called for a far-reaching restructuring of the Maputo municipal bus company (EMTPM) so that it can meet the increasing demand for passenger transport in the capital.
When he visited the company, as part of his tour of institutions supervised by the Transport and Communications Ministry, Nyusi was faced with the carcasses of dozens of buses that are off the roads because of various breakdowns, and lack of parts, some of them as basic as tyres and batteries.
In the workshops, Nyusi found several young mechanics, apparently idle, and chatting among themselves. They told him “there's no work. All the buses are circulating. Today we have had no breakdowns”.
But as Nyusi could see with his own eyes, all the EMTPM buses were clearly not circulating. “You say you have no work”, the President declared. “But here there are buses that are not moving. Aren't you able to repair tyres?”
The young mechanics told him the tyres are repaired outside the country. In all, they said, there are more than 30 buses off the roads because of problems with tyres and batteries.
Nyusi called all the workers together and asked why they were so unable to repair the company's buses - and they complained of a shortage of spare parts. They urged that when the company acquires new buses, the contract should deal with questions of maintenance. They said that EMTPM has equipment to repair tyres, but that it is no good for the type of buses currently circulating.
“You are telling me that more than 30 buses are stopped because you can't solve problems of tyres and batteries”, said Nyusi incredulously. “A further 80 buses are on the way (from China), and by December the number will rise to 300. But I see we will have the same problems”.
“You have to understand that this company is yours. It's where you earn your bread”, the President told the workers. “So you must not be indifferent to problems that are so small”.
At the ensuing meeting of the Consultative Council of the Transport Ministry, Nyusi said the problem was not just a shortage of buses. There was also a problem of attitude. He was sure that if the carcasses of broken down EMTPM buses were sold off, private operators would soon put them back on the roads.
“In the hands of private businessmen, all those buses can circulate”, he said. “The problem is us - we relax because we will always receive our wages”.
Nyusi warned the managers of public transport companies that, although transport is a social service, that fact does not justify the problems he had seen. “The workshops of the public transport companies are becoming cemeteries of buses”, he said. “We are going to import more buses, but it will always be money lost”.
Restructuring EMTPM, he added, did not just mean replacing the company's leadership - it was an exercise “in transforming and clarifying responsibilities at the workplace”.
Nyusi was also dismayed to find that the company Transmaritima had acquired boats for coastal shipping in 2011, but they proved inappropriate, and are now paralysed in Zambezia province, waiting to be scrapped. Another eight Transmaritima vessels are destined for the scrapyard. Yet, Nyusi noted, there are countless bay, lake and river crossings that need ferries to carry passengers and cargo.
As for the Ministry itself, Nyusi said it must stop being “a warehouse of staff who can work nowhere except in the ministry”. He said he had found cadres holding senior positions, but with no clear plan for what they were doing.
In some cases, Ministry officials actively hindered transport solutions. “How is it that we create difficulties for somebody who has buses and wants to operate a route to Zumbo (a remote district in the western province of Tete)?”, asked Nyusi.
The excuse for refusing to licence companies for certain routes was often that other operators were already working there. “What is the commitment we have given to this businessman saying that only he can operate?”, asked Nyusi, revealing that he had heard complaints from private businesses that they were running into this sort of barrier.
Nyusi wanted “radical decisions” to revive the whole transport sector - and Transport Minister Carlos Mesquita promised that the President's recommendations will be implemented.