By Clemence Tashaya
TWO of the biggest buses that have been plying the Katima Mulilo to Windhoek route have been suspended from operating in the area.
The Trans Zambezi Runner bus, popularly known as Triple Seven, and Ekonolux which were operating the Katima Mulilo – Windhoek route were recently suspended for their failure to comply with the Roads Authority permits. This was after the Namibia Buses and Taxi Association (NABTA) officials lodged a complaint to the Roads Authority.
The General Manager of the Triple Seven buses, Mr Mazila Liyembani confirmed to the Caprivi Vision in an interview that they were temporarily suspended because they did not have a domestic or a local permit for the route.
“We are still waiting for our local permit and if everything work out well, passengers will see us back on the route. NABTA members lodged a complaint with the Roads Authority and that’s why we are not on the road. However, we applied for our permit on the 27th of May this year and we are still waiting for the Road Authority’s approval. The reason for the delay is that the Roads Authority does not have a board to approve permits as we are speaking now” Mr Liyembani said. “A meeting involving all transport operators was held at the Former Legislative Assembly Hall in July and everything was agreed upon but we were given a benefit of the doubt. We were given time to round up our business and our last trip was to the Masubia Cultural Festival held on 31 July 2010 ,” he further added
Currently a notice pasted on the entrance of the Triple Seven offices in Katima Mulilo and signed by the company chairperson reads: “We have temporarily closed bus services between Katima Mulilo and Windhoek respectively. On behalf of myself and the company, I would like to apologize for the inconveniences that may accrue and occur,”
However, the Caprivi Vision is reliably informed that the fiasco behind this temporary ban was because small operators plying the same route (Katima Mulilo – Windhoek) were complaining that they were loosing business and passengers were opting for bigger and comfortable luxurious buses instead of mini buses (Kombis). Many passengers have complained that small mini buses are not comfortable and were prone to accidents since the route is long.
Mini-bus operators also explained to this paper that the big bus owners were mainly foreigners and they could not take it lightly because they were not investing in Namibia. These allegations were targeted at Ekonolux which is foreign owned and plied the Windhoek – Katima Mulilo route just for a month before their permit was also withdrawn by the Roads Authority.
“These buses are foreign owned and as small and indigenous operators, we also need business since we are Namibians not foreigners. There is some corruption going on. Why were they operating these routes for the past years in the first instance? As Kombi operators, we have been doing this business for many years but when these guys came, we lost much in terms of revenue,” explained a Kombi conductor on condition of anonymity.
The Chairperson of the Namibia Buses and Taxi Association in Katima Mulilo, Mr Abel Mubu explained to Caprivi Vision that the move was meant to benefit his members who are largely small transport operators.
“Everyone was briefed about this issue and we agreed and for your information, all taxis are operating with regulated permits. Even my own taxis are not operating because I don’t have the required papers for me to operate. Like all of us we had to apply and are still waiting for our permits to be approved as well,” he explained
However, Mr. Mubu advised all road operators to comply with the regulations in order for them to conduct their business fearlessly.
An Ekonolux bus services employee, Ally Mutimingi said that they have been suspended from operating because their bus has a cross border permit and have now applied for the required local permit.“We are waiting for the same permits and our passengers are avoiding these small buses because of accidents. Their trips are having accidents but for us we are accident free”, he explained
Meanwhile, seven passengers were burnt beyond recognition in August in a Kombi that was involved in an accident with an oncoming truck along the Otjiwarongo – Windhoek road. It was coming from Katima Mulilo going to Windhoek.
However, the Caprivi Vision is reliably informed that the Trans Zambezi Runner is now plying the Windhoek via Zimbabwe route which is in accordance with its permit which allows them to ply cross border routes.
The Corporate Communications Manager for the Roads Authority, Dr Audrin Mathe explained that the two buses, Trans Zambezi and Econolux are in possession of Cross Border road transport permits which authorizes them to pick up passengers from Namibia to Zambia or Botswana hence these permits does not authorize them to pick up and drop off passengers in Namibia.
“Any pick up and drop – off of passengers within Namibia requires a Domestic Road Carrier Permit which these companies did not possess. Therefore, it is not correct to say that they never had any form of permit,” he said
“It is true that these companies have applied for Domestic Road Carrier permits in May and June respectively and together with other applications, these applications are now under considerations by the Road Transportation Board, hence the outcome for all application is expected to be communicated to the applicants by next week. The delay was caused by the fact that the Road Transportation did not have a Chairperson since June 2010,” he further said
Dr Mathe also revealed that the Roads Authority Law Enforcement Officers in Katima Mulilo is short staffed.
“Imagine, we have only five officers and these are required to weighbridge, the town and national roads. The fact that they are required to work shifts of 2 persons and also covering after hours and weekends seriously stretches the already few staff to the limit. Therefore, monitoring the activities of these buses all time is a challenge and it was possible for the buses to get away with this as the drivers did put in place to avoid detection.” Dr Mathe professed.
On the issue of decentralisation, Dr Mathe said the Ministry of Works and Transport is currently working on the Passenger Transport Bill which includes decentralisation of some functions and hopefully this Bill will address the issue of decentralising road carrier permit functions to the local authorities. Furthermore, decentralisation of services through out all aspect of government is a process that takes time as it requires the necessary arrangements and infrastructure to be put in place.
He further advised that Caprivi region communities should make use of other big buses such as Inter-Cape Bus Liner until the two suspended buses are issued with the necessary domestic transportation permits to serve the route.
“The buses were not suspended from operating rather, they were stopped from undertaking domestic road transportation but can still continue to operate cross border road transportation which they already posses the necessary permits. The decision to stop the buses from operating road transportation is fair and valid because the law requires possessing the relevant permits before one undertakes any form of transportation. The buses were not allowed to operate illegally. They were avoiding detection by escaping the weighbridge or by dropping off passengers before proceeding to the weighbridge and only pick up the same passengers after clearing with the weighbridge,” he claimed
However, he advised transport operators to respect the law by conducting their business within the confines of their permits. To passengers, he appealed them to ensure that they only use authorised transport to avoid inconveniences with the law.