- Published on Saturday, 14 July 2012 01:47
- Written by LAWI JOEL
- Hits: 1437
THE problem of bus touts has for long dogged the city of Dar es Salaam and, as nobody can still doubt, has both bitten and beaten the city’s authorities.
Announcing their triumph over more than four-throng attack by various members of the over-four million Dar community, they present the picture that the city has left behind in the mist of times the days when a destination board on a commuter vehicle was a necessity and the bus conductor had to tell a prospective passenger the route.
The boys, most of whom look famished or drug weary, show that one does not need to know how to read neither is the paint belt alongside the buses mean anything because they will tell you where the bus is going. They are the all important, the compass for a commuter, the unbeatable.
You have to accept them to travel safely in the city and they have won the fight hands down, leaving the Dar es Salaam Region Police Commander Suleman Kova and his officers with the simple choice that “if you can’t beat them, join them”. But at this time of the year, the touts are irrelevant.
Not that they no more cast a glance over their shoulder. It is only that something else connected to commuting in Dar es Salaam is astir, relegating them to the background. The message Reporter at Large gets as he moves from one place to another in the city aboard a commuter bus is that the nagging jigger mere is reminiscent of the fact that a battle has been fought and won, but the battleground is not without a war for a new one has begun to rage out there.
The bone of contention this time around is commuter bus fares, the crop that has fed and still feeds almost every lazy bone in the city and a pest that gnaws deeply the earning of workers. The present fares have been in force since March last year and commuter bus operators are up in arms to have them raised.
Dar es Salaam Commuter Bus Owners Association (DARCOBOA) has appealed to Sumatra to allow them increase the fares. Reporter at Large went to the Sumatra’s head office in the city and discovered that reasons advanced by Darcoboa were ostensibly “increased costs of operation which negatively affected the profit margin”. Aboard commuter bus Reporter at Large saw some uniformed police officers.
Almost everywhere particularly in the morning school children scrambled for the bus but where either barred at the door by the conductor or they were selectively allowed aboard.
Reporter at Large also saw a couple of uniformed military officer aboard the bus. Unknown to him, the uniformed officers and schoolchildren formed a part of Darcoboa complaints. Part of their application to raise the fares was:
“Denial of subsidy from the Government to finance transportation of soldiers and police officers who travelled for free.” Further investigation by Reporter at Large revealed that Darcoboa was also unhappy to see schoolchildren aboard their commuter vehicles even after the government had asked them to make some contribution to the whole community of the city’s effort to facility school children’s attendance to school.
But Darcoboa insisted on having its pound of flesh as the fair share of the bargain by asking for a fare raise, saying: “Low fares paid by students were inadequate to cover bus operational costs.” To many bus operators “operational costs” was a pregnant phrase open to any interpretation and indeed did mean a lot.
Inquisitive, Reporter at Large went nosing around and boarded on his morning routine trip to work a commuter bus T9762 BZU plying Kimanga-Temeke route. The bus conductor of the commuter vehicle one Ponera Kacheuka said they gave the bus owner 75,000/- daily.
They were left with 50,000/- which they divided between themselves – the driver and the conductor. Kacheuka said the dividend was after everybody else was paid. “There is what we give a police officer, there is also what we give the touts which amounts to about 5,000/-.
Then there is also the money we buy food with,” he explained. Although stakeholders reportedly agreed with the Darcoboa’s reasons for the application, Reporter at Large has seen that the buses are always overcrowded most of the day, carrying more than twice their capacity, violating blatantly the “level sitting” requirement.
When it happens that commuters’ traffic thins, the buses start competing by lowering the fare usually down to 200/-. They also divert to routes with many people when their prescribed ones appears to have less traffic of commuters. Breaking route to earn a bigger profit on a return trip is a common practice.
Whatever they do to earn more money, the person who ends up paying the bill is the commuter. After talking with a Sumatra official on the fare question, Reporter at Large the place smiling at the futility of one of the reasons advanced by Darcoboa’s supporters that: