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Commuters Don't Love Mozambique's Haphazard ‘My Love’ Trucks

Transport crisis in the city of Maputo

People rush for a truck in the city of Maputo.

[All links lead to Portuguese-language pages unless otherwise noted.]

There is a terrible transport crisis in the Mozambican city of Maputo, marked by daily traffic jams and long queues during rush hour. Due to a limited fleet of vehicles and poor road conditions, Maputo Public Transport (TPM), the public company that operates urban transport in the metropolitan area, is not able to meet the needs of many neighborhoods.

With the system in Maputo struggling to transport people where they need to go, private semi-collective vehicles known as the “Chapa 100″ fill in many of the gaps.

But now they aren't the only vehicles on the road. After a years-long absence, the “My Love” trucks, so dubbed because people are forced to travel very close together, have recently reappeared.

Many of these open air trucks are poorly maintained, pack in a large number of people especially during rush hour, don't have schedules and often don't follow a fixed route.

"My Love" driving around Maputo.

A “My Love” driving around Maputo.

Blogger, sociologist and professor Carlos Serra wrote about the return of “My Love” on citizen media platform Olho do Cidadão (Eye of the Citizen):

Numa fila longa em pleno pico de trânsito, a meio de um Sábado, observo uma viatura de caixa aberta apinhada de pessoas. Pensando, todos estes anos depois, tinha alguma expectativa de que viéssemos a melhorar o nosso sistema de transporte urbano. Na realidade, trata-se de um regresso, afinal chegaram a ser as rainhas da estrada no princípio dos anos noventa, antes que um instrumento legal condicionasse o transporte de passageiros a determinadas características básicas, facto que originou a proliferação das carrinhas minibus (as “chapa 100”). Mas hoje, regressaram à estrada e, devido à fantástica capacidade criativa dos moçambicanos, ganharam a designação de “MY LOVE”, porque lá em cima os passageiros viajam bem apertadinhos e agarrados uns aos outros como forma de evitarem cair borda fora.

In a long line at the height of traffic midday Saturday, I watch an open truck crammed with people. Thinking, all these years later I had some expectation that we would have improved our urban transport system. In reality, it's a step backward – after all, they were once king of the road in the early 1990s before a legal instrument required that the transport of passengers meet certain basic characteristics, a fact that led to the proliferation of minibus vans (the “Chapa 100″). But today, they have returned to the road, and due to the fantastic creative abilities of Mozambicans, they have earned the nickname “MY LOVE” because on top of it, passengers travel squeezed together and clinging to each other to avoid falling overboard.

A long line of people wait for transport in Maputo.

A long line of people wait for transport in Maputo.

Population growth

One of the factors behind the shortage of transport is the high population growth in Maputo. The Statistical Profile of the Municipality of Maputo (pdf), presented by the city council in 2010, estimated a population of 1,233,424 residents in 2013, compared to 1,094,315 in 2007.

The uptick is the result of migration from other parts of Maputo province to the city, especially to the outskirts where housing is being expanded. According to the National Statistics Institute (INE), the population of Maputo province has grown by 50 percent between 1997 and 2007. The vast majority of services and markets are concentrated in the city of Maputo, which increases the flow of people who come in and out of the capital on public transport.

Pointing to a series of recommendations for the “dilemma of public transport and road traffic in the city of Maputo,” an article published on the website Mozmaníacos in March 2013 stated that:

Em Fevereiro de 2008 a frota dos Transportes Públicos de Maputo (TPM) contava com apenas 32 autocarros para uma população de 1.7 milhão de habitantes (Maputo e Matola). Actualmente [in 2013] os TPM contam com 105 autocarros afectos aos transportes colectivos de passageiros na cidade de Maputo para um número cada vez mais crescente de utentes destes serviços.

In February 2008 the fleet of Maputo's Public Transport (TPM) only had 32 buses for a population of 1.7 million inhabitants (Maputo and Matola). Currently [in 2013] TPM has 105 coaches and buses in Maputo for an ever-increasing number of users of these services.

"My Love" go everywhere, even to suburban areas.

“My Love” go everywhere, even to suburban areas.

To alleviate the situation, the city council of Maputo is planning to implement an “exclusive transportation corridor” for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) on National Highway No. 1 – the main access to capital – to begin service in 2016 “in order to solve the traffic management and organization of the urban public transport system.”

Waiting for a place in a "Chapa 100".

Waiting for a place in a “Chapa 100″.

The city has seen strikes in 2008 and 2010 due to the rising price of transport, coupled with the rising prices of basic goods and fuel. And since January 2014, there have been constant interruptions of transport. The drivers demand improvements in the condition of access routes and roads and ask for an increase in fares, saying that the current ones are unsustainable for today's reality.

A publication by Canalmoz newspaper on Facebook highlighted some of the complaints:

Os transportadores dizem que o mau estado da via está a contribuir para a degradação dos carros. Os automobilistas questionam para onde vai o dinheiro que é pago ao município em taxas, se as estradas estão esburacadas. Em adição a isso queixam-se também pelo facto de o Governo ter priorizado a inspecção de viaturas para recolher dinheiro, no lugar de reparar as estradas.

Transporters say that the bad condition of the roads is contributing to the degradation of the cars. Motorists question where the money that is paid to the city in taxes goes, if the roads are full of potholes. In addition to this, they also bemoan the fact that the government has prioritized the inspection of vehicles to collect money, instead of repairing the roads.

The government's Master Plan (pdf) for Mobility and Transportation in the Metropolitan area of ​​Maputo (2013-2035) details the eventual creation of a Metropolitan Authority of Maputo Transport. 

In the meantime, Maputo's civil society isn't waiting around for authorities to improve the situation. The nonprofit organization Ruth (Uthende Network), an initiative to influence the political process and public policy with a particular focus on urban centers and transport issues, recently launched a campaign for “better mobility, better quality of life in the region greater Maputo”. Ruth also published a Citizen Manifesto (pdf) which advocates for the creation of such a transport authority.

The organization participated in the marches of International Labor Day, May 1, and summarized what workers and students who use urban passenger transport in the metropolitan area of ​​Maputo have to say as follows: “I do not want you anymore, ‘my Love’!”

All photos used in this post are from the original author, Dércio Tsandzana.

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