Maputo bus fare protests subside

The protests on 15 November following the introduction of higher bus fares in Maputo and its neighbouring city Matola have subsided and the transport situation is reportedly back to normal.

The disturbances began over a 40 per cent increase in fares for both the public TPM buses and the privately-run minibuses, following new legislation ushered in by the respective municipal councils who plan to invest the extra funds into upgrading the city bus fleets.

Barricades with burning tyres were set up on some roads in Maputo's suburbs and at the start of the city's South Africa motorway but police responded quickly to break up crowds and clear streets. The clashes were minor in comparison to the widespread rioting after the previous attempt to introduce a 50 per cent bus fare increase in February 2008, which was quickly overturned but not before the deaths of four protesters and the resignation of the then transport minister.

The recent protests on 15 November led to the disappearance off the streets of virtually all privately-owned minibuses, known locally as "chapas", for about 24 hours. The chapa owners feared the wrath of commuters who have long-accused them of shortening their routes illegally so they can charge two fares. In the past some chapa drivers have even defended this practice, claiming that by not shortening their routes they would not earn sufficient money to cover their operation costs.

Authorities in Maputo have pledged that from now on chapa drivers will face stern measures – including vehicle confiscation – if they are caught shortening the route they are licensed to operate.

The one-way fare for short distances is now seven meticais (about $0.25), rising from its previous five meticais price (about $0.17), while fares for 10km or more have risen from 7.5 to nine meticais.