The boycott, which began early yesterday, also affected other businesses that depend on movements in the south-western Tanzania’s major city.
“We are boycotting after realising that the government has failed to remove bajaj operators in the city’s major roads; their presence gives us hard time as don’t get enough passengers as was before,” said Innocent Dawala, one of the commuter bus drivers.
He said Mbeya city authorities had earlier removed another group of unlicenced commuter service operators who used Toyota Hiace vans with the capacity to carry 15 passengers but left the three wheeler operators to continue with the business.
“We’ve the order given by the authorities that we use mini buses of at least 25-seater capacity; such vehicles consume a lot of fuel compared to our competitors’ three wheelers. We end up with losses because of the influx of bajajs and that is why we’re boycotting,” Dawala said.
Acting chairman of the Passengers Rights Association (Chakua) in Southern Highlands Stanford Mwambogela said the boycott affected individual passengers as well as businesses in the city, urging city fathers to dialogue with bus operators and resolve the matteramicably.
Mwambogela argued that the law regulating transport in the city stipulates that motorcycles and three wheelers are supposed to operate in the peripheral areas and not the city centre.
“It is just a matter of abiding by the laws; we have to do this for the prosperity of our city,” he said.
Senior officer from the Surface and Marine Transport Regulatory Authority (SUMATRA) in the Southern Highlands Denis Daud expressed his disappointment over the strike, saying motorcycles and three wheelers, popularly known as bajaj, were not allowed to operate on the main roads within the central business district.
“They (motorcyclists and three wheeler operators) are banned from operating in the city centre,” he said, appealing to law enforcers to work on the matter for the peace and tranquillity of the city.
Mbeya Regional Police Commander Ulrich Matei urged commuter bus drivers to resume work immediately and keep the city moving again.