Motorists should brace themselves for double the existing fines and fees as the Directorate of Road Traffic and Safety Services (DRTSS) will hike them from January 1 2020.
Effective New Year’s Day 2020, driving a motor vehicle without a driving licence or a professional driving permit will attract a K15 000 fine, up from K10 000.
Failure to stop a vehicle under traffic order or refusing to comply with directions will cost K20 000 from the current K8 000 while the fine for driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol with above 0.2gramme/210mm remains at K200 000 or in default a three-year jail term and suspension for a year from driving.
Failure to have a certificate of insurance on a vehicle with a capacity of more than 16 passengers but less than 32 remains at K500 000.
The adjustments come two years after an earlier 1 150 percent adjustment was suspended in November 2017 following a public outcry.
Reacting to the new fines and penalties, Minibus Owners Association of Malawi (Moam), Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) and motorists said the adjustments were not realistic.
In an interview, Zomba-based motorist Charity Bizwick said the new fees and fines will likely trigger an increment in other services, including minibus fares which will in turn make life hard.
She said: “Obviously, this will negatively impact ordinary Malawians because other services will likely be affected. Right now, things are already tough and the development brings uncertainty.”
Patrick Nzeru, a minibus driver who operates along the Limbe-Zomba Road, said the situation is worrisome and would amplify corrupt practices on the country’s roads.
He said: “While we feel that these adjustments are a blow to us, some officers [DRTSS] might also take advantage of the situation and coerce drivers to pay less or even just to get away with offences or access other services as is the case now.”
In a telephone interview, Moam chairperson Felix Mboonekera said it is unfortunate that when such adjustments are being made, stakeholders are not consulted.
He said: “All in all, for us as Moam, this is a hard blow because as of now the economy is not good and business is not perfect on the roads following stiff competition and introduction of new taxes as well.”
Mboonekera was apparently referring to the introduction of carbon tax that came into effect on November 25 this year which Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) is collecting on behalf of government as motorists renew their vehicle certificate of fitness (CoF).
In a written response, Cama executive director John Kapito said the adjustments are unacceptable and unnecessary, especially coming at a time when DRTSS services continue to fail Malawians.
“Despite in the past DRTSS raising similar taxes, the directorate has refused to listen to concerns of poor service delivery. For instance, in some cases, one has to spend over a week or more just to get basic services,” he said.
In a written response yesterday, DRTSS spokesperson Angellina Makwecha said the adjustments were necessitated by high operational costs such as network and internet services as well as maintenance of its system, among others.
She said: “On the adjustment of penalties and fines, a thorough consultation with stakeholders in the transport industry deemed it fit to have the penalties and fines adjusted upwards to deal with the problem of lawlessness which contributes a high proportion of accidents.”
In June this year, an Anti-Corruption Bureau’s (ACB) survey indicated that DRTSS was the most corrupt public institution alongside the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services.
The study indicated that 61 percent of DRTSS service providers felt that officials take bribes while 44.4 percent of users acknowledged that money in form of bribes is paid out.
In November 2017, DRTSS also wanted to put into effect from November 13, new fees and offences but were later suspended after a public outcry.