Maputo — Mozambican Transport Minister Carlos Mesquita told reporters on Friday that he hoped the chronic problem of public passenger transport in Maputo and the neighbouring city of Matola will soon be minimized.
He was speaking in Matola shortly after visiting the municipal bus company (ETM), and said he had noted efforts by the company managers to overcome the current crisis.
"In Matola, I could note that the level of performance, compared with my last visits in June/July, is positive", he said. "There is clear commitment by the company management and by the municipality".
Mesquita witnessed four new ETM buses enter service. This is half of a consignment of eight buses acquired by the company, but which were severely criticized by Mesquita on his last visit, because they had no rear doors, and no corridors running between the front seats. The supplier has now corrected these problems.
ETM chairperson Eliado Mussengue said that the corrections did not cost the company anything extra, on top of the 40 million meticais (about 656,000 US dollars) already paid for the buses. The supplier was obliged to make the corrections at no additional cost, since the buses, as delivered, did not meet ETM's specifications.
"Shortly we shall have 22 buses in Matola, compared with the previous 12", Mesquita said - since, in addition to the eight that have been corrected, a further two are expected to enter service in the next few days. The number of routes that ETM covers with its buses will rise from eight to 12
Mesquita stressed the need for maintenance which is now guaranteed by the Chinese-owned company, Matchedje Motors, under a partnership agreement with ETM, and with its sister company in Maputo, EMTPM.
Under this agreement, Matchedje Motors is to rescue 30 of EMTPM's buses and put them back on the roads. Currently it is assessing the state of ten of these buses, to ensure that it can order the necessary spare parts.
ETM was grossly overmanned with almost 300 workers for just 12 buses. Mussengue said the company has now made 140 workers redundant, and just 147 workers remain. But the company must now make redundancy payments of about 30 million meticais.
Following a suggestion made by Mesquita during his previous visits, ten ETM buses that cannot be repaired are being turned into classrooms, which will accommodate some of the primary school children who are currently studying in the open air. About 1,300 classes are held in the open in Maputo province, some 930 of them in Matola.
The transformation of five buses into classrooms is now complete. Matchedje Motors has taken out the bus seats and replaced them with school desks. The converted buses are now being handed over to the Maputo Provincial Directorate of Education.
The Deputy Provincial Director of Education, Salmina Alexandre, told AIM that the buses will be used for first grade pupils in Matola. Each bus is able to accommodate 60 pupils. Hence between them the ten buses will protect 600 pupils from the elements. The average number of pupils per class in Matola is between 60 and 70.