There are mixed reactions to a Ministry of Transport and Public Works suspension of implementation of new fees and fines for road traffic offences initially set to roll-out on November 13 2017.
Parliament’s Committee on Transport and Public Works yesterday commended government for putting on hold implementation, describing the decision as mature.
In an interview yesterday, committee chairperson Victor White Mbewe said the proposed fees, which saw traffic offence offenders facing penalties of up to 1 150 percent high, were not realistic.
He said: “Since government has now decided to suspend the whole penalties, as a committee we are happy because this has shown that government has listened to the cry of the people on the ground.”
In an interview yesterday, Minister of Transport and Public Works Jappie Mhango said the suspension seeks to allow authorities time to address concerns raised by different stakeholders on the matter.
He noted that many people have expressed concern; hence, taking time to re-look the whole process.
But the minister maintained that the fines and service fees were introduced to curb accidents that continue to claim many lives on the country’s roads. He said investigations have revealed that many accidents occur due to non compliance with road safety rules.
However, Nation Publications Limited (NPL) products—The Nation, Weekend Nation and Nation on Sunday—established that corruption that leads to issuance of road permits and driver’s licences to unroadworthy vehicles and unqualified ‘drivers’ were also a major contributing factor to accidents.
The suspension contradicts sentiments by acting director of the Directorate of Road Traffic and Safety Services (DRTSS), Fergus Gondwe, at a news conference in Lilongwe on Wednesday that they were going ahead with the fines and fees.
The decision was arrived at after a stakeholders meeting on Wednesday night involving Mhango, Gondwe and representatives from the Road Transport Operators Association (RTOA) and Minibus Owners Association of Malawi (Moam).
Nevertheless, chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs Maxwell Thyolera said they would still meet management of the directorate as planned.
Moam general secretary Coxley Kamange, who was part of the meeting, said they were delighted that government had paid heed to the public outcry and acted accordingly.
“The key issue now is to find out tangible means, as stakeholders, of ensuring that we reduce the accidents. Hefty fines or fees are not a solution,” he said.
Kamange also advised government to consider detaching from the directorate some responsibilities.
“They cannot be lawmakers and law enforcers at the same time. Let them concentrate on enforcing or implementing the law and leave other tasks to others because they are interested party,” he observed.
RTOA executive director Chrissie Flao said they were not surprised with the suspension which she attributed to the emergency meeting at Capital Hill.
But Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) executive director John Kapito said the move was an indication of lack of coordination within government departments and agencies. n