By Draxon Maloya:..
At Times Overbooking Passengers…..
What was supposed to be a routine bus journey for 63 year old Eluby Ngoma from Chitipa District to Lilongwe turned ugly as she approached the makeshift Chitipa Bus Depot to board one of the three buses that she found loading.
Without notice, she was caught in the middle of a battle by muscle men who were representing the three buses and each group wanted her to board their bus.
She said in the fracas that ensued, Matours Bus loaders forcibly carried and shoveled her into their bus against her wish to board another bus and lost her valuables including money and broke her cell phone in the process.
“You can see, my clothes have been torn like this, my phone fell down and got broken, the transport money is stolen in the process and I am now stranded, my journey to Lilongwe to visit my sick daughter is canceled,” complained Ngoma.
Another woman Jane Msiska who was traveling to Mchinji complained that despite choosing to board the Matours Bus but she struggled to get into the bus because one of the touts pushed on her way in which was unconfortable for her.
“You know we old women struggle to jump so any slight push is not required mainly in public places like this,” lamented Msiska
Apart from creating fear to most of the travelers due to the recent fatal road accidents, officials working at Matours Bus Company are reported to be among the worst customer service transport providers, this publication has also established.
Talking to several people where the buses operate, many feel customer welfare is secondary as complaints range from provision of unfair treatment to travelers when boarding Matours Buses at various bus depots and stages apart from the recent fatal road accidents involving these Buses.
A visit to Chitipa Bus Depot earlier this week encountered several ugly scenes in which Matours Bus Company crew hired hoodlums some of which are ex-convicts from Chitipa Prison who threaten travelers in various ways when boarding Buses.
These touts at times engage in physical fights for passengers right in front of passengers and their employers.
The bus was also caught issuing advance tickets to passengers at Lufita and Kapoka bus stages.
During our sting operation at Lifita we found 8 people with loads of luggage that had already been issued tickets while the bus was still loading at Chitipa boma.
While we were still there two buses came before the Matours bus which had spaces for passengers but nobody had a chance to board them as they had to wait for the bus they had already booked denying them the right to choose.
And speaking to a Matours Bus tout at Lufita, John Mwanguku, he confirmed the issuing of tickets to traveller’s at the bus stage as a way of hooking customers.
“People are now used that we issue tickets early morning every day here at Lufita bus stage, people should not worry that the bus will not come,” said Mwanguku
Commenting on the development, the Acting chairperson of the Mini Bus Operators Association of Malawi (MOAM) , northern chapter, Davie Kalua expressed disappointment with a trend of sad events related to Matours Buses contributing even to loss of lives but quickly revealed that Chitipa is among the districts which has no executive representation in MOAM formation.
“We are very concerned with the sad developments taking place at Chitipa Bus Depot but I cannot comment much because Chitipa is among a few districts in the country which has no executive representation in the MOAM formation,” Kalua said.
Meanwhile when we tried to reach the Passengers Welfare Association of Malawi (PAWA) chairperson Don Napuwa for comment, he could not be reached since his cellphone was out of reach on numerous occasions.
But responding to the accusations leveled against the commuter service provider, the proprietor for Matours Bus Company, Moses Nasawa accused law enforcement agencies like police and the Road Traffic Directorate for not doing enough to bring sanity on the roads in bus depots.
“Where are officials from the Road Traffic Directorate and Traffic Police officers when Matours Buses are said to be overloaded and again where are the patrolling police officers in Chitipa when those violent ex-convicts are said to be harassing people in the bus depots?” queried Nasawa.
The visibly angry Nasawa also refuted social media reports claiming that the Mini Bus that gutted fire in Blantyre on Tuesday belongs to Matours Bus Company, accusing those fabricating the issue as agents of Satan engulfed in the smoke of jealousy.
However, Northern Region Police Public Relations officer, Maurice Chapola cautioned those involved in touting that it will not take time when the long arm of the law will catch them in accordance with the Section 8B of the Road Traffic Act of 2006.
“Touting is an offence in the country, whoever bus operator found acquiring the services of call-boys in bus depots or elsewhere risks meeting serious consequences,” Chapola said.
In Malawi, the offence of touting is contained in Section 8B of the Road Traffic Act of 2006, Road Traffic (Construction, Equipment use) regulations.