The three-passengers-per-seat minibus sitting arrangement, which government introduced some years ago, is gradually disappearing as most minibuses carry four passengers per seat.
Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama), Road traffic directorate and Minibus Owners Association of Malawi (Moam) have pushed the blame on passengers, saying they deliberately allow sitting in rows of four instead of three.
But minibus passengers interviewed randomly in Lilongwe said they are forced to comply with the old sitting arrangement to catch up on time.
Cama executive director John Kapito said there is need for civic education among passengers.
“Consumers, who are passengers in this case, should demand their right to the recommended seating capacity. However, passengers are passive in Malawi as they allow conductors to squeeze them to maximise profits.”
Malawi police traffic in-charge, Mavuto Mbobo, and director of road traffic directorate, James Chirwa, said it is wrong to carry passengers beyond the recommended seating capacity as the law is still in operation.
“We blame passengers because strangely, they oblige to the wrong seat capacity,” said Chirwa.
Asked why minibus owners allow minibuses to break the law, Moam national secretary, Coaxley Kamange, said minibuses conductors do not force passengers to board a minibus which is already full.
“Passengers are the ones who should check the seat capacity before they board a minibus,” he said.
Kapito backed road traffic police, saying they cannot be on the road all the time; hence, passengers should take responsibility to demand the right practice.
But Kamange has a warning for passengers: “When a 16 seater minibus is involved in an accident, the insurance company compensates only the first the 16 passengers [the others are not compensated].”