News / Africa

Mozambique Capital Faces Transport Headache

One of Maputo's many truck taxis packed full of commuters during the end of day rush hour, August 2012, (VOA/Jinty Jackson)
One of Maputo's many truck taxis packed full of commuters during the end of day rush hour, August 2012, (VOA/Jinty Jackson)
MAPUTO — Every day, tens of thousands of commuters cram into open trucks to begin their commute into Maputo, the capital of Mozambique.  City authorities say they are working on a transportation masterplan that will do away with these unsafe and unregulated taxis.  However, it is unclear what the alternative is, with only 200 municipal buses serving a city of nearly two million people.

It’s a familiar sight in Maputo - an uncovered farm-style truck lurching toward the sprawling slums that ring the city, full of passengers clinging onto the sides or each other.

It's part of the daily routine for thousands - but many say they have had enough.

The transport situation is sad, really sad, says this man.  When it is rush hour, getting onto these open-topped trucks is always a battle and it’s not worth it.

"I wish we could travel in dignity and comfort in proper buses," said a man. "At least it's not raining; that would be so much worse," said another.

Authorities say there hasn’t been a major accident involving these trucks so far.

But injuries often go unreported.  That is what happened to Julia Chilaule.  She says she was six months pregnant at the time.

"When I was getting on, there were many other people who wanted to get on. I fell down," said " Chilaule. "Somebody pushed me. I didn’t see who... When this happened I was pregnant.  Two days later I lost the baby.”

Despite what happened, Chilaule hasn’t stopped using these lorries.

"I am afraid," she said, "but I don’t have another option."

Authorities say they want to get rid of the truck taxis, but it's not that simple, says Joao Matlombe, Maputo City Transport manager.

“Because we have lack of transport.  Our public transport is not enough to support the demand.  What is happening is that people are using trucks to transport people," Matlombe said.

When asked if the trucks are licensed, Matlombe responded, "No, they are not licensed but the problem is how can I tell those trucks not to carry people if I don’t have a solution to carry the people and to take people from one point to another point."

So how did the city come to rely so heavily on these open lorries? 

Six years ago authorities decided not to give out licences for 15-seat taxis - the kind that are popular across the region.  They hoped private operators would buy larger vehicles to ferry more passengers, easing congestion.

Matlombe says the decision backfired.

"Our decision wasn’t successful because it was necessary also to give them facilities to get loans, to get new buses," he said.

Instead - old, rundown 15-seater taxis still clog the streets, but they only cover short distances to boost their fares.  The only option if you want to travel longer distances are the lorries.

Meanwhile, Mozambique’s economy is growing at breakneck speed and more and more people are flooding into its capital.  The average salary is $100 a month.  On average, 20 percent of that goes on transport.  But it is not enough to make the taxi business viable. There are fewer and fewer taxis on the roads.

So what about municipal buses?  Last year the city bought 150 new gas-fueled buses from an Indian company, Tata.  It was a controversial deal because Mozambican President Armando Guebuza is a shareholder in the local subsidiary.  

"A third of the buses are already out of commission, because the deal didn’t include spare parts or training," he said.  "And recently the municipality ran out of gas to fill them for a week leaving commuters even more reliant on the truck taxis."

Authorities say more buses are not the answer. Matlombe says the city is drawing up a transport masterplan, modeled on other cities like London, Bogotá and Las Vegas that have successfully used dedicated bus lanes to solve their transport headaches.

"We are trying to reorganize the whole system," he said. "We decided instead of buying more buses we need to reorganize the roads.  We need to invest in bus lanes, it is very important.  Because now buses take more than two hours.  If we add more buses, the traffic will increase."

Another challenge will be getting people to pay more for an upgraded transport service.  The last time the government tried to do that, in 2008, it had to back down in the face of protests.  Authorities say they intend to increase transport fares by the end of the year but they have yet to announce by how much.

You May Like

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs