Maputo — The owners of the privately-owned minibuses (commonly known as “chapas”) that provide much of the passenger transport between Tete city and the mining town of Moatize, in central Mozambique, went on strike on Wednesday, demanding the right to increase their fares by a third.
This bosses' strike took would-be passengers by surprise. They turned up to their usual bus stops on Wednesday morning, only to find that no chapas were running. This prevented many people from travelling to their workplaces.
The chapa owners say they took their vehicles off the roads to put pressure on the Tete provincial government to authorise an increase in the Tete-Moatize fare from 15 to 20 meticais (from 25 to 34 US cents). The distance is about 20 kilometres.
The chapa operators were angered when some of the minibuses did put up their fare, and were then fined by inspectors from the provincial transport directorate. They also noted that the chapa owners running routes within Tete city were recently authorised to increase their fares (to 15 meticais).
“They've increased the chapa fare in the city, and we can't lag behind”, said one operator, Joao Samuel. “The cost of living is hurting for all of us”.
The strike was not solid. Some operators disregarded the strike call, which allowed some passengers to make the journey between Tete and Moatize at the old fare.
The Tete provincial director of transport, Romeu Sandoca, said the chapa operators had acted hastily, since the proposed fare of 20 meticais has not yet been approved by the authorities. A memorandum of understanding is being drawn up between the provincial government and the Tete Association of Transport Operators, which will specify the new fares for all inter-district journeys, including Tete-Moatize.
“We are drawing up the new fares, and those whose vehicles use the Tete-Moatize route know that”, said Sandoca. “We are not rejected the 20 meticais fare, but we are saying that it must be approved”.
Sandoca added that the operators also know that they must comply with several requirements - such as ensuring that their vehicles are in good mechanical condition, that the seats are comfortable for passengers, and that the drivers and ticket collectors wear uniforms.
“We guarantee that shortly the new fare for Moatize will be in force”, he said, “but for that to happen the memorandum of understanding must be signed between the government and the association of transport operators”.