Upcountry bus drivers stage six-hour protest

Drivers of up-country buses yesterday staged a six hour strike, demanding payment of 350,000/- as a minimum wage and a stop to police harassment.

The drivers through their umbrella body – Bus Drivers Association (UWAMATA) – claimed that bus owners were not paying them the salary they deserved.

“Drivers need to be paid at least 350,000/- as minimum wage with other allowances,” Salumu Abdallah, the association’s Secretary said as Tanzania joined the global community in marking International Workers’ Day.

Abdallah stated that drivers were not given contracts by their employers, forcing them to work all through without knowing their benefits upon termination.

The drivers also pointed fingers at the traffic police in Iringa and Mbeya regions for harassing drivers, arresting them even when they have not committed any traffic offences.

“Traffic police from these two regions are a nuisance. They arrest drivers anyhow, threatening them and later asking for bribes from them,” he alleged.

Abdallah called on the police force to take action against such traffic officers.

He claimed the traffic police stopped them at any point and sometimes hid in areas where it was dangerous for buses to stop, later charging the drivers with speeding offences.

“When drivers argue with them, they promptly slap a 100,000/- fine – which is unlawful,” said Abdallah.

The strike saw many passengers postponing their trips.

Drivers were seeking the support of the government to pin down owners of the buses to pay them accordingly, saying it was not easy for the drivers alone to win the war.

The Dar es Salaam Special Zone Police Commander, Suleiman Kova intervened, calling on all drivers to end their strike, adding that their demands had already been considered.

Kova ordered the arrest of bus owners who provide their employees with fake contracts, assuring drivers that responses to their demands would be made public on Tuesday (tomorrow).

The drivers said if their demands were not be met on the said day, they would initiate a strike from Tuesday onwards to press for their rights.

Some buses left the terminal in the afternoon for upcountry regions while some passengers postponed their journey until Monday (today).

However, when called later to confirm if all the passenger buses had left Ubungo Bus Terminal, Kova said all had left for their destinations.

The commander said already all traffic police officers countrywide have been notified of the issue.

Speaking to this paper by telephone yesterday, the Traffic Police Chief, Mohamed Mpinga said he had already spoken to all regional police commanders to assist buses that would be forced to ply at night following the delay caused by the strike.

“I have told them to ensure security of the buses and passengers, to ensure they don’t over speed, and that all checkpoints must be aware that buses are moving at night,” he said.

Mpinga said however that, regardless of the buses starting their journey at 1300, there was no reason to allow them to move during the night.

“The principle remains that no bus will travel beyond midnight. Buses that are going far and will not reach their destinations before midnight, must stop somewhere and wait until dawn to resume their journeys,” he said.

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