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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

The shameful state of the public transport sector...Who`s responsible? Who can fix it?

9th April 2012

Jambo for the coming week, and hope those celebrating Easter at the end of the last one enjoyed it, as yet still free of the commercial pressure which dominates and depletes festivities like this in the western world, especially at Christmas.

But as always when about to leave for London in a few weeks, I’m already impatient to access basic western amenities, like clear drinkable tap water…. pavements to walk on……wonderful parks to stroll in.......and the bonus of ‘real’ buses….none of which on that list are basic at all in the local context here, but some should be.

And nowhere more so than the ‘cattle carriers’ which pass for passenger transport on the roads of Tanzania. Yet regulations in some developed countries wouldn’t even allow animals to be transported in such hazardous unhealthy conditions as these.

In Britain some years ago, there was concern over damaging reports that TB was being spread on public transport there via African citizens using it. Yet the Tanzanian Ministry of Health offered no explanations as to why the disease wasn’t being transmitted in the same way here, as it surely is… but the difference is there’s no concern!

On any given day in this country, there are endless symposiums, seminars, workshops, talk-shops and meetings, often conducted in ‘development psycho-babble speak’ to ascertain various statistical aspects of social or fiscal progress being achieved. But who attending has ever said “wait a minute, why are we discussing progress in the abstract when we know it in reality, and it’s non-existent at many levels, like transport for example… Has nobody here been on a so-called ‘bus’?

A Tanzanian writer describing chaotic commuter services in Dar es Salaam said many of the daladalas lacking the standard chassis width for passenger transport still operate openly because they’re owned by big shots or bureaucrats, adding: “This is nothing to do with poverty, only a lack of serious commitment.”

Correct, and well known, so why does it continue? And why have MPs failed to address an issue which impacts on people’s lives and the economy? And with donors involved in most aspects of development here, aiding the transport could be one of them.

In a straightforward remedy that needn’t be couched in devious diplomatic speak, doesn’t require World Bank input, think tank initiatives, or foreign consultancy policy objectives!

The Dar es Salaam Rapid Transport project

(DART) was partially funded by the International Development Association. However, since that’s not yet on-going, the current system still needs rectifying first.

Bur given the history of public transport here as well as the negligence and lack of infrastructure maintenance, how long will it be before DART is similarly constrained?

Anyway, if we ever get ‘proper buses’, we might also get designated bus stops in the town centre. Currently, incoming ones dropping and picking up people outside the central post office go around the Askari Monument and head back towards the next commuter stop….in Upanga…..with none in between. It’s a very long way to walk, if you fail to squeeze your way onto a vehicle (I’m reluctant to call them buses).

After a couple of years trying to find out who’s supposed to do this simple task of designating ‘bus’ stops, I’ve given up. It’s not the City Council’s job, so they tell me!...It’s not Sumatra’s brief either, and the police are also supposed to play a part apparently ….but don’t.

Well I’ve changed my mind while penning this piece……and now think that to designate a few new bus stops….. remove all trading causing obstruction and chaos in front of the central post office commuter area, all bus stations, and other parts meant to be for passenger transport but are dominated by traders……what we really need……is …yes… external assistance, as THE LOCAL BUREAUCRATS CANNOT MANAGE THE JOB! In fact, let’s go the whole way, and have those ……western think tank initiatives, foreign consultants, the lot……and why not a bit of help from the World Bank, they ‘govern’ much of Africa, and can surely handle Tanzanias public transport sector.......there we are that should sort it!

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