Maputo — The Mozambican Transport Ministry, through the National Overland Transport Institute (INATTER), is stepping up inspection of buses making interprovincial and international journeys in order to avoid traffic accidents during the festive season.
Deputy Transport Minister Manuela Rebelo warned drivers of the tighter inspection regime on Monday when she visited Maputo's main interprovincial and international bus terminal.
According to a report in Tuesday's issue of the independent newssheet “Mediafax”, Rebelo went to the terminal to see what measures bus companies are taking to deal with the increase in passengers expected during the Christmas and New Year holiday period.
In the past the holidays have also seen an increase in traffic accidents, with their toll of deaths and injuries. “We are instructing INATTER to be stricter in its inspections”, said Rebelo. “We do not want our citizens to be carried in vehicles that are not fit for the journey”.
INATTER would also be looking at the inspection centres where all vehicles are supposed to be inspected once a year. “There are cases of vehicles which pass the inspection, but are not fit to be on the roads”, accused Rebelo. “We can't allow this to happen. People should travel decently and, above all, safely”.
She told reporters she was concerned at some of her findings at the terminal. Some vehicles were overcrowded, and in some cases the forms containing the names of the passengers were badly filled out. She also accused the associations of road transport operators of charging their members exorbitant fees.
“We announced this visit in advance”, said Rebelo, “and so we expected everything to be in order. But the passenger lists are badly filled out, and contain nothing apart from names, badly written down”.
The bus companies did not even bother with the names of young children travelling with their mothers. “So how are they going to be identified, if anything goes wrong?”, asked Rebelo.
The bus companies asked Rebelo to lift the ban on 15 seat minibuses carrying passengers on interprovincial routes. She refused.
“The measure is irreversible”, she said. “The Automobile Transport Regulations state that interprovincial transport may only occur in vehicles with more than 29 seats. What we should do is allow operators to enter these routes who have the capacity to acquire these vehicles”.
She also turned down a request to allow long distance buses to travel through the night, since she was sure that night transport increased the risk of accidents. “We are working to reduce the number of traffic accidents”, sad Rebelo, “and so we cannot take measures which might bring problems. The transport operators need to organise themselves to carry passengers safely, complying scrupulously with the requirements and rules laid down for this activity”.
As if to prove how seriously the government takes the issue, a traffic policeman on Monday morning flagged down a bus travelling from Beira to the northern city of Nampula. According to a report on the independent television station STV, he found that the 60 seat bus was carrying 68 passengers. Although the journey is about 1,000 kilometres, the extra passengers, including children, were sitting in the aisle.
On long journeys, buses must have two drivers, but this vehicle had just one. To make matters worse, the driver offered the traffic cop a bribe of 600 meticais (about ten US dollars). The bribe was rejected and the driver detained.
The police contacted the bus company, and only allowed the bus to continue its journey three hours later, where the extra passengers were removed, and the company provided two new drivers.