One day, as I was driving along the Chileka Road, I attempted to drive past a minibus that had turned into the Wenela Filling Station but was, for reasons that I never understood, stationary, having stopped before it entered the filling station. This was before the Chileka Road was dualised. Suddenly, the minibus reversed back into the main road and bashed me on the side, causing some extensive damage to the driver’s door.
To my complete horror, the minibus driver did not bother to stop to gauge the extent of the accident he had caused. Instead, he sped off, initially driving into the station by one entry point then out again through the exit on the other side of the station, and he was gone. Somebody had just gifted a problem to me and hurriedly got away, leaving me to deal with the problem alone.
This, at any rate, appears to be a consistent attitude among our minibus drivers. They think of themselves first and still of themselves last. When they are on the road, the rights and comfort of other road users do not matter. Not in the least!
When I am driving from home, I go for about half-a-kilometre on a dusty road, which eventually joins the M1 near the Manase Total Filling Station on Chikwawa Road. More than once I have been inconvenienced by minibuses that park along the M1 on both sides of the exit road referred to above. You get to the junction and you cannot see the traffic going towards Mpemba or that coming from that direction heading in the CI direction, because minibuses are blocking your view. It takes real courage to join the road under such circumstances. A silent prayer is often resorted to before deciding to move forward.
God forbid, but if an accident occurred as a result of this madness, the minibus drivers would be the first to get away. They would do all they could to avoid being ‘messed up’ in the messy situation they would have caused.
They (the minibus drivers and conductors) pretend to be considerate to passengers, but the truth is that they would not care less. One day, I decided to catch a minibus in Limbe, to travel to Zomba. I stood by Blockbuster Shop and, indeed, one minibus came along. I jumped on, contented that because I did not have to wait forever for a bus to show up, I would be in Zomba on time for my appointment.
I could not have been more wrong. The vehicle started off in the Zomba direction but took the first left turn followed by other t turns to go back to Limbe Market, in search of more passengers. By that time, the fares had already been collected from those on board. For close to one hour, we kept going back and forth as they tried to fill the bus. Surely, they could have picked up more passengers at Kachere, Mbulumbuzi, Walala, Magomero Turn-Off and other places along the Zomba Road, but they just could not consider that as a viable option. What mattered to them was that the bus should be full as it left Limbe. The convenience of the passengers was of secondary, if any, importance to them.
More, recently, I was caught up in a traffic jam approaching the round-about at the Clock Tower in Blantyre as I was driving from the direction of Ginnery Corner. Getting to the round-about, I noticed that a minibus had been stuck just as it was entering the circle. This was neither as a result of an accident nor a mechanical problem. It had simply run out of fuel. And yet they had fuel on the same vehicle, except that it was not in the tank. It was in a spare can, instead.
Somehow minibus drivers believe that fuel carried in a can is different from that which goes straight into the vehicle’s tank. Perhaps storing it in a can will change the hydrocarbon content to a more durable one or to one that burns with greater efficiency. I wish I could comprehend the reasoning behind a minibus driver calling into a filling station and asking the attendant to fill his (the drivers’) jerry can rather than letting the fuel go straight into the tank, and then driving a short distance before the tank is completely emptied, forcing the vehicle to stop. More often than not this happens at a point that is inconvenient for any vehicle to stop.
I urge minibus drivers to search within their habits and jetisson those that subject others to great inconvenience.