Transport minister Mwakyembe’s promise to Tanzanians during a meeting with bus drivers over the weekend is a breath of much needed fresh air to a nation suffocating from worn out infrastructure.
The minister promised to solve the crisis that has dogged bus owners, their drivers, Sumatra and traffic police for a number of years, surfacing with fury when least expected and then somehow dying off with little to show in terms of results. Many of the drivers work without contracts, yet face major risks while executing their tasks.
It is also true that the plight of upcountry bus drivers is not the only ailment that the transport sector suffers from. There is Dar’s appaling public transport system and the dilapidated railway system to name only two.
We know that Dr Mwakyembe’s plate is full and there are no easy answers to what he has to grapple with in his new office. But he has began well, learning of the problems first hand, through commuting and responding to distress calls such as the recent one from train passengers who were stranded at Tazara station in Dar es Salaam because the train had no fuel.
We also know that with determination and public support, the vision of a streamlined efficient transport system that Dr Mwakyembe is striving to put in place is now very possible.
Our public transportation leaves one in awe and dismay, yet it does command some form of admiration especially from the hapless commuters.
The few usable roads force vehicle congestion and the second hand vehicles which most, don’t burn fuel effectively and as a result clog the city air with poisonous fumes.
With no regulation on the number of passengers a vehicle may carry, not only do drivers overcharge with impunity, but also pack in passengers to the point of suffocation. A daladala during rush hour is akin to an over flowing suitcase packed in such a hurry that the unfolded clothes are hang out through its sides.
It is admirable that after such a ride everyday one is expected to efficiently perform at work and then again ride the death traps back home and somehow help the children with homework or hold a calm relaxed talk with the spouse.
So to hear a top official speaks of a structured detailed plan to improve transportation is, at the very least, a major relief to commuters.
Mwakyembe went on to even put a time frame to his promise, ‘two months’ he said, at which point, he will clarify these, ‘issues’. Well honourable minister, you can rest assured, Tanzanians anxiously await the promised actions.
It will be of great relief to have speed trains and light rails to take the load off the roads. Hopefully the private sector will come to the support of the minister in realing his vision of realigning the transport system.
The public needs to get more involved in helping the government to realise the vision for a safe and efficient transport system.
So we receive the deputy minister’s promise with open arms but maintain a cautious edge.