By Duncan Mlanjira
In a serious effort to curb the rampant malpractices by commuter minibus drivers and their conductors in which they force passengers to exceed seating capacity, Road Traffic Directorate has asked owners of the vehicles to submit personal records of their drivers to the Directorate.
The minibus owners have been asked to also include the registration numbers of the vehicles their drivers are using as well their driver’s licenses so that the Directorate can compile a record book.
This has been decided so that passengers, who feel aggrieved by the conduct of the drivers and their conductors, should take note of the registration number of the minibus and report to the Directorate or to the traffic police.
This was the conclusion that came up during MBC TV’s weekly programme, The Debate, that attracted RTD’s senior officer Raleigh Chewere; Malawi Police Service public relations officer Senior Superintendent James Kadadzera; Minibus Owners Association leader Misheck Munthali and Passenger Welfare Association leader Don Napuwa.
MBC TV also invited to The Debate members of the public, who bear the blunt of drivers’ and conductors’ rudeness when they complain of being forced to exceed seating capacity.
In his closing remarks, Chewere said the public have the right to complain on those that break the traffic laws on the roads of Malawi and they encourage them to do so in order to reduce cases of unnecessary accidents on the roads.
“When the passengers are forced to exceed seating capacity, or if they observe the drivers breaking the traffic laws, they can take note of the minibus’ number plate and report to the Road Traffic Directorate,” Chewere said.
Before making the declaration, Chewere had first told the minibus owners that they keep records of all minibus owners and that is why when drivers break the law it’s the owners who are punished if the on-the-spot fine was not done but the case has gone to court.
“This time around, minibus owners should submit personal record of their drivers and conductors to us so that when a complaint reaches us or the traffic police, we should be able to punish the culprits themselves and not you, the owners.
“Passengers shouldn’t be forced to sit four on a seat line because it’s against the law,” Chewere said, attracting a huge round of applause.
The debate was very enlivening in which almost every sector of the society present blamed each other as being at fault.
Napuwa blamed the minibus owners, who give their drivers targets on how much revenue they should be bringing per day and when that is met before close of business, the drivers now try to maximize by overloading the minibuses.
But the owners distanced themselves from this accusation, saying it’s the passengers’ fault who allow to be overloaded because they are usually in a hurry and can’t wait for the next one in line.
The passengers themselves said they are powerless because when they complain the drivers and conductors, including the touts, asks them to get off the minibus instead and allow those who don’t mind to board.
In defence of the passengers, Napuwa said passengers are sometimes threatened and in order to keep their dignity, they just accept the malpractice.
The police were also accused of letting minibus drivers get away with overloading in which one of the participants of the debate accused the law enforcers of accepting bribes.
“When minibuses that have exceeded seating capacity, or have other offenses sorrounding the vehicles and are stopped by the traffic police, the drivers then pull over away from the officers.
“They then walk back to where the officer is standing and I have witnessed them receiving some money but a receipt is never issued,” said one of the debaters.
Kadadzera was at pains in trying to clear this serious allegation but conceded towards the end that should members of the public have evidence of this malpractice they can also report to the police.
Kadadzera pleaded with the public to be vigilant and never to accept anything short of professionalism from the law enforcers so as to save lives on the Malawi roads as well as control corruption.
He pleaded with the minibus owners to be strict with their drivers by informing them that passengers would soon be reporting on them even after the incident had happened elsewhere where the police were not present.