Transport Minister Dr Harrison Mwakyembe yesterday announced strategic plans to solve long standing working and administrative problems facing upcountry bus drivers, saying answers would be provided in the next two months.
The minister speaking to upcountry drivers at Ubungo Bus Terminal in Dar es Salaam yesterday said: “Just give me time to work on these problems…there would be clarification on these issues after two months.”
He was responding to complaints raised by the drivers during the meeting, such as lack of permanent work contracts between the employers and drivers, low-pay and poor working conditions.
The drivers accused the employers of deliberate failure to give them permanent contracts, a situation which subjected the crews to poor living conditions, considering that they have families and dependants.
They said despite taking various initiatives for years to bring the matter to the attention of concerned government authorities, nothing has been done to date.
Although the minister seemed to sympathise with the drivers, he said Surface and Marine Transport Regulatory Authority (SUMATRA) should also be blamed for the poor drivers’ packages.
He said there were many drivers who had not registered with SUMATRA, as required by the law, noting “names of drivers (plus their academic certificates) registered at SUMATRA are different from the actual drivers driving the buses. At the end of the day, drivers are lowly paid and they accept that they are not registered by SUMATRA.”
The minister blamed SUMATRA for failure to conduct regular inspection to ensure that the drivers driving the passengers’ buses were the ones whose certificates were presented by employers to SUMATRA.
Mwakyembe directed SUMATRA to verify the registered upcountry registered drivers in order to uncover cheats, adding: “From now onwards, drivers would be required to collect their driving licenses at SUMATRA instead of just getting them from employers.”
The move, according to the outspoken minister was aimed at reducing road accidents, which are always caused by unqualified drivers and set the groundwork for the improvement of drivers’ packages.
He, however, challenged the upcountry drivers to be smart and behave decently, saying that was the only way they could win respect from the public, the government and their employers.
The minister on Saturday outlined measures to revamp the transport sector, including plans to introduce train services in Dar es Salaam to ease congestion.
He also sent a strong warning to commuter buses overcharging passengers, saying he was aware of the unacceptable practice and would soon put an end to it.
He also warned the Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA) officials against malpractices going on at the Dar es Salaam Port.
The warning comes in the wake of punitive measures taken by his leadership against some officials at the Air Tanzania Company Limited (ATCL).
Mwakyembe issued the warning during a CCM public rally held at Jangwani grounds where several ministers briefly outlined achievements recorded by the government.
Mwakyembe said he was aware of complaints that the port has been turned into a ‘supermarket trading in vehicle spare parts.’
“I am disappointed by the situation. I am giving them time to clean up their act. I don’t want to be blamed later on, because I will punish them,” Mwakyembe insisted.