Kinshasa, march 14th, 2023 (CPA).- A disturbance of public transport on some arteries of the city of Kinshasa was observed on Monday in the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, following the strike decreed by the Association of drivers of Congo (ACCO) because of the new price scale of the races fixed by the provincial government.
« I work in a public company. I was here since 8am, it is now 10am, but there is no public transport to the city centre. I will still wait until 12:30. Some people who were in this place took motorbike taxis at 5,000 CDF to go to Kintambo shop to get to their work places. This situation puts us in great difficulty and can disturb the purchase of fuel and even the profitability of the drivers themselves, » said Franck Fundi.
Workers, shopkeepers, schoolchildren and resourceful people had to walk in search of transport, while others were still hanging around at the stops hoping to be picked up by private drivers.
« It is true that the strike called by these drivers is penalizing the population, but the provincial government must not back down with its new public transport fees. It must remain coercive in order to eradicate this phenomenon of drivers setting prices as they see fit, » said Mr Jonathan Kipulu.
ACCO disapproves of new public transport fares
« The governor’s order on the new public transport fares is out of date. It is outdated because it should have been published 4 months ago. Today, we have many other realities on the ground. The dollar rate has risen; the prices of everyday consumer goods have gone up on the market. These are parameters to be taken into account before publishing a new tariff grid, » said the president of ACCO, Jean Mutombo, in an interview with CPA.
He revealed that he had asked the governor to study the extent to which he could revise the new tariffs upwards in order to adapt them to the increase in prices.
Intervening on the issue of the practice of half ground and illegal pricing that has become commonplace in the city of Kinshasa, Jean Mutombo said that this is due to the absence of an official tariff schedule. « It is true that transporters are increasingly practising illicit pricing. I do not encourage this behaviour at all, but it must be admitted that the drivers were doing it because of the absence of a tariff grid”.
The president of ACCO condemned the behaviour of some striking drivers who attacked their colleagues in some parts of the Congolese capital, including the Delvaux district in the municipality of Ngaliema. « I condemn all the drivers who have brutalized colleagues who did not want to observe the strike movement. It is their right to accept or refuse. We are in a democracy, no one can force someone to do something they don’t want to do, » he said.
It is difficult to change the new tariff schedule without having applied it
For Alfred Ndona, an executive at the urban transport division, it will not be easy to change the prices set in this decree which has not yet been applied. « It is true that the publication of this new tariff coincided with the increase in market prices. But it is important to know that it will be difficult for the governor of the city to immediately review this tariff before it is applied on the ground, » he warned.
He stressed that the governor does not set the price of transport. « This is the work of the tariff commission, which includes representatives of the Ministries in charge of Economy, Transport, the Urban Transport Division, the Drivers’ Association and consumer rights organisations, » he explained.
« The modification of the tariff schedule is not done in one day. It can take a whole week because there are calculations based on the percentage increase of the litre of fuel at the station. If this increase reaches 5%, the price can be increased. If not, you can’t. There are also calculations based on more than 600 transport lines operated in Kinshasa. The fare is evaluated in relation to the category of vehicle and the distance. It is the result or conclusion of all this work that is presented to the governor in the form of a decree, » he said.
« The new public transport tariff will disrupt our service, as we have been facing inflation in the market for several months in the city of Kinshasa, » said a taxi-bus driver, Mr Herve Mokuba.
For some drivers, this pricing must be revised upwards in view of the realities on the ground marked by traffic jams and the rise in fuel prices.
« We are confronted every day with monstrous traffic jams that do not allow us to work well and disrupt our daily income. The price of fuel is one of the causes that the governorate must take into account before reviewing the prices, » said a driver of the central market-pumping section, Mr. Rachidi Mavangu.
« It is not easy for us to live this kind of situation. For your information, the payment has already increased; normally this also causes the price of fuel to rise. As far as we are concerned, we from the UPN, I find it abnormal that they charge CDF 800 as planned by the town hall. We were already paying CDF 1,500 and now they are reducing it to CDF 800, it’s complicated for us, » said Prince Disava, driver of a Mercedes 207 on the UPN-Zando route.
« We have taken the risk of working because in the UPN drivers who have observed the strike threaten us with death at the risk of damaging our vehicles, » the driver lamented.
« We on the Pompage-Zando route are experiencing the same problem. Nevertheless, we continue to charge the old fare since it will be difficult for us to live at this rate. Let the Town Hall, as our partner; find a sustainable solution that will satisfy everyone. Already with CDF 800, we are faced with the problem of exchange and this risk poisoning our relations with our passengers, » complained Chadrack Siani, a taxi-bus driver.
The population is satisfied
In addition, the population of Kinshasa expressed their satisfaction with the new fare set by the provincial government. « The drivers and public transport operators set the price as they see fit. During rush hours, the prices increase without any justification« , testified a public transport user, Mrs Deborah K.
For her part, a passenger and owner of a clothing shop in the main market pleaded for a dialogue between the authorities and the taxi and taxi-bus drivers. « This situation makes it difficult for us to get around, we arrive late at work because of the drivers’ grumbling, » she said.
The new fare came into force on Monday and it has made public transport difficult throughout the city and province of Kinshasa. The public transport has always been very difficult on Mondays; especially for this Monday, March 13th, 2023, taxi and taxi-bus drivers said they were more than determined to bring the urban authority to review a little down the pricing.
No change observed at the Ngaba roundabout
In addition, the new price scale for public transport has not been observed in the Ngaba-Central Market roundabout section. « I was surprised to see that our drivers did not respect the new price scale set by the government. I paid CDF 1,500 from Ngaba roundabout to the central market, yet the price has been revised to CDF 800, » lamented Mr. Gloire Kinzala, a passenger.
« Nothing has changed as far as the price of public transport is concerned; I paid CDF 1,000 from the central market to Ngaba roundabout. This price had almost doubled by 7am when I went to Bokasa. The control service of the Ministry in charge of Transport should really follow up so that this decree is respected, » said Fleur Nsinga, a passenger.
Some motorcyclists have taken advantage of the situation to come to the rescue of users by raising the price of the ride. « Usually, I pay CDF 3,000 from district 1 to the central market, today I paid CDF 4, 000, » said a customer.
The general director of the Public transport named “Transport en commun” (TRANSCO), Cyprien Mbere and his deputy Flory Bwatuka have increased the number of buses on the urban network and created other special lines in different strategic hot spots of the capital to allow peaceful citizens to move around in peace.
However, traffic at Matadi-Kibala, Rond-point Ngaba (the Ngaba Roundabout) and Selembao market going to UPN is running normally and fares have not changed. On the arteries, some police officers can be seen driving around to restrain some drivers who were trying to protest against their colleagues who did not respect the strike.
In the municipalities of the communal grouping of Tshangu, the half-field phenomenon persists. « We prefer to do the half-field to avoid increasing the transport fare. Fuel is expensive; air compression to the vehicle has increased from CDF 500 to CDF 1,000. If we adopt the decision of the City Hall we will be working at a loss, » explained a driver, Benoit Mukendi.