February 7, 2008

Protests over transport prices

One person was killed when police opened fire on a crowd protesting against transport price hikes in Maputo, a police official has said. "We are aware that one person was killed ... but we will investigate in what circumstances police resorted to live ammunition instead of rubber bullets or teargas ... it's getting tense," said police spokesman Arnaldo Chefo. Thousands of people were protesting in Maputo and some of its suburbs due to a 50% public minibus fares hike. Mozambique's largest trade union federation, OTM, has said workers spend 35 percent of their wages on transport. The envisaged fares hike has been temporarily suspended after government intervened amid fears of more violence. A day later some private operators expressed their anger against the decision to reverse the fare increase. In some neighbourhoods surrounding Maputo, the private operators themselves were preventing buses from the publicly owned company TPM of carrying passengers.
In Maputo and the neighbouring city of Matola, the fare for a minibus-journey of up to five kilometres rose from five to 7.5 meticais. The flat fare for longer journeys rose from 7.5 to 10 meticais (at current exchange rates there are about 24 meticais to the US dollar). Transport operators are demanding the government to subsidize the prices of fuel as they are running at a loss with the current diesel prices, primarily taking into account other costs incurred such as maintenance and others. Currently, a litre of diesel costs 35.35 meticais, following a 14 per cent price rise on December, which according to the government was forced by the volatility of the international market. "The government has promised to give a definitive answer by Friday 15. Therefore, we urge all transport operators to resume their activities until then", said Rogerio Manuel, chairperson of the Federation of Road Transport Association (FEMATRO). (Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique, Maputo)

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