Influx of Toyota Sienta taxis on Malawi roads worries commuter minibus owners


By Duncan Mlanjira

Most commuters are preferring taxi services of Toyota Sienta vehicles that are plying on the roads because they are not being forced to exceed seating capacity but Minibus Owners Association of Malawi have complained that the taxis are being used like minibus.

This is contrary to the taxi service operating licences that the owners apply for at the Road Traffic Directorate (RTD).

Competition stiff on the market

The minibus owners say the taxis are allowed to park and wait for passengers at places where commuter minibuses are not allowed to but instead of servicing single passengers or a group, the drivers load the small cars with individual passengers just like the minibuses do.

During MBC TV’s weekly programme, The Debate, Minibus Owners Association leader Misheck Munthali complained to RTD’s senior officer Raleigh Chewere, present during the debate, as to why they are allowing this to happen.

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“Our understanding is that these Sienta’s are supposed to attract special rates meant for taxis in which they charge higher for an individual who has hired it,” Munthali said.

“But they still operate in the same manner we do and because they are small and load faster than us, commuters prefer these Sientas.

“They are allowed to operate where we are not supposed to and that’s a disadvantage to us — it is affecting our business returns,” Munthali said.

However, Chewere the Sienta’s are given licenses to operate as taxis not as minibuses and that they ply their trade within the region.

“At first the Sientas used to cross over into another region but that has stopped because those caught were being punished.

“A taxi can carry a group as long as the seating capacity is observed, which the RTD and the traffic police check,” he said.

The debate, that was also participated by Malawi Police Service public relations officer Senior Superintendent James Kadadzera; Passenger Welfare Association leader Don Napuwa and some members of the public, centered on addressing the concerns that minibus drivers force passengers to illegally sit four on a seat line.

And to maximize on revenue collection the drivers and their conductors try to beat the system by asking other drivers if they had spotted traffic police along the route and when told they were not, they would force passengers to exceed seating capacity.

Any attempts by the passengers to complain falls on deaf ears and are always rudely challenged to drop off and catch another that can allow that.