Passenger Welfare Association of Malawi (Pawa) president Don Napuwa says lack of impromptu traffic checks in bus stations has seen some unroadworthy vehicles carrying passengers, thereby putting lives at risk.
But Directorate of Road Traffic and Safety Services (DRTSS) spokesperson Angellina Makwecha has said the directorate stopped doing the checks in line with the recent Malawi Traffic Information System (Maltis).
Previously, DRTSS would institute impromptu spot-checks in main bus stations such as Wenela in Blantyre, Zomba, Lilongwe and Mzuzu but has not done so in recent years.
Makwecha said in an interview, that vehicles, including all classes of passenger service ones, are tested for road worthiness at DRTSS or accredited private vehicle inspection stations.
She said: “The law requires that passenger-service vehicles be subjected to a test every six months. In the past, DRTSS officers used to visit bus depots not for road worthiness tests, but for other regulatory requirements which are now being done by traffic law enforcers in various check points.”
But Napuwa blamed government for what he described as “chaos that are costing people’s lives”.
He said: “Some bus operators use unroadworthy vehicles and if the authorities were serious, most of these would be impounded.
“We have been receiving complaints of buses with dysfunctional brakes, worn out tyres, poor ventilation, sitting passengers beyond capacity and other issues. Unfortunately, no one seems interested in checking these things.”
In a telephone interview, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Transport Francis Chinsinga admitted that there are gaps within the sector but said government was working to address them.
He said: “On our part, we discovered that there is need for a strict monitoring mechanism, especially for buses. But DRTSS is understaffed such that it has been difficult to station officers in bus hubs to conduct spontaneous checks. Government provided some funds, which we have used to recruit about 50 officers, but still they are not enough.”
Chinsinga said following some accidents that have occurred recently, the ministry convened a meeting with the Public Transport Association (PTA) and Road Transport Operators Association (RTOA) to find common solutions to the matter.
He said the parties have since agreed to jointly address the challenges.
In September last year, eight pedestrians died after being overrun by a minibus near Kamuzu Bridge in Chikwawa District.
And in March this year, five people died and 10 sustained injuries in an accident involving a minibus which overturned at Nathenje in Lilongwe.