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DW / The fight to catch public transport in Maputo
Semiprivate passenger transport operators in Maputo went on strike this Monday in protest at the increase of fuel prices, while on Saturday the price of bread went up following the government’s withdrawal of the wheat flour subsidy.
The strike was not universally supported but nevertheless made many students and employees late for work and forced others to make the journey on foot. Others have also resorted to the open-top ‘My Love’ vans to get into the city, given the limited public transportation available.
Paralysis called through social networks
Strikers are demanding an immediate fare rise, claiming that current maintenance costs are unsustainable.
The strike was called through social networks, but the Association of Road Transport Workers distanced itself, association president Castigo Nhamane saying: “We do not recognize that message. We at Fematro, representing the urban passenger carriers, are working with the government to find a better solution.”
This Monday, the scene at bus stops in the city was one of desperation, with long lines of passengers everywhere.
“I’ve been waiting for a ‘chapa’ for an hour. I’m going to Liberdade. I’m going to wait a little longer then see if I can make some connections [switching buses along the way]. I’ll have to pay double,” Samuel Vasco Andrade told DW reporters. “I’m going to work. I’ve been here about twenty minutes, but no minibus is coming. I’ll be forced to go to Mozal and change at Matola Rio for Boane. I’ll do that so I’m not late for work,” he said.
The police however are down-playing the situation. spokesman Orlando Mudumane said: “The situation is calm; the semi-collective carriers are moving normally, people have managed to get to their places of work without major inconvenience.”
The police reinforced security on highways, and at busy bus stops and stations. No incidents were reported.
The Mozambican government increased the fuel price on March 22, maintaining subsidies for agriculture and public transport, but most of the ‘chapa’ operators are not registered and therefore do not benefit from the measure.
Gasoline rose from 50.02 meticais (EUR0.69) to 56.06 meticais a litre (EUR0.77), and diesel from 45.83 meticais (EUR .63) to 51.89 meticais (EUR0.71).
Weekend bread price rise
Also in Maputo, the price of bread rose this weekend, following the announcement of the withdrawal of the government wheat flour subsidy for bakeries.
DW Africa interviewees say they were taken by surprise.
“My name is José Barnabé. I did not buy it (the bread), I went back. Because it is expensive. I did not know. If I knew I would note have come here.”
Laura Joaquim was very surprised and says: “I arrived today, and bread is eight meticais (EUR0.12) and no heavier. Poverty is increasing, not possible with a hundred meticais (EUR1.40). If you have a family of five, you no longer buy bread.”
The government say the withdrawal of the subsidy is justified as the price of wheat on the international market has fallen and the national currency, the metical, is relatively stable against the dollar.
It points out as other factors the current economic situation and the unfair competition on the part of some bakeries that is generating inefficiency in the market to the detriment of both the state and consumers.
Population reaction was predictable
According to analyst Fernando Lima, the current reaction to rising fuel and bread prices was foreseeable. Lima explains that although the government continues to subsidize the fuel, most carriers can not benefit from the measure because they do not have official status.
He adds that the government’s intention is to gradually remove fuel subsidies, but notes that in the past the government had tried in the first instance to quash protests against rising fuel and bread prices, but ended up restoring subsidies to minimise the effects of the crisis.
Asked about the possible future scenarios, he said he thought “the government tries at all costs to avoid social upheavals and from this premise will be very attentive to see to what extent the population can accommodate this new cost of living increase because the fuel and bread scenarios, added to a massive depreciation of the metical, which lost in the space of one year more than one hundred percent of its value in relation to the internationally-quoted currencies.”
Source: Deutsche Welle