Maputo — Beira Municipal Council has refused to take responsibility for the public bus company in the city, according to a report in Tuesday's issue of the independent daily “O Pais”.
It was a longstanding demand of Beira Council, which is run by the opposition Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), that the central government hand over control of the Beira Bus Company (TPB) to the municipality.
The government, in the person of Deputy Transport Minister Manuela Rebelo, finally signed an agreement on 7 July under which 70 per cent of the assets of TPB would pass into the hands of Beira Council, and the remaining 30 per cent to the neighbouring city of Dondo.
But on Monday, the Mayor of Beira, Daviz Simango, told a press conference that the Council is handing the TPB assets back to the government because it now regards them as “a poisoned gift”.
“We have written a letter to the Prime Minister renouncing reception of the buses”, he said, arguing that, in reality, the assets had never passed into municipal hands.
In July, Simango gave the government a list of ten points which needed to be dealt with before the municipality could take responsibility for TPB. These included a full list of TPB staff and their wages table, a list of the means of transport handed over to the municipality, and a guarantee that the government would pay off TPB's debts, including wage arrears.
Simango said the Council never received a reply to these points either from the government or from the transitional management commission set up to ensure a smooth takeover by the municipality.
But the matter which finally drove the Council to hand the company back to the government was a clash with the TPB trade union committee.
“We were surprised by a letter from the local unions demanding a wage rise and privileges, and wanting answers to some disputes from 2015”, sad Simango. “We understood that the unions were not aware of the company's situation”.
Simango regarded TPB as bankrupt, and found it strange that the unions did not know this. He added that the unions should not simply demand money and privileges from a company that was unproductive and making no profits.
As for the transitional management commission, it should have handed over the company in ten days, but was still in office after 37 days. Given these circumstances, Simango concluded that the conditions did not exist for the municipality to run the company in the way it had been run in the past.
He said he is now looking for other partners, and is assessing options for meeting the challenge of public transport.
“Right now we are making enquiries from some manufacturers to see if we can acquire buses”, Simango added. “And naturally we shall coordinate with the central government, because it is in our interest that both the government and the municipality should contribute to the well-being of the public”.
He mentioned China, India and Portugal as possible sources of “cheap, secure and resistant buses”, based on which a new municipal company could “start from scratch”, and perhaps absorb some workers from TPB.
“The government wants to improve the transport sector and we want the same”, said the Mayor. “I think both sides will find more viable ways to guarantee that our fellow citizens can continue to circulate”.