Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The End of an Era?

In the wake of multiple fatal traffic accidents involving chapas, it looks like the days of this ubiquitous sardine can on wheels are numbered:

Mozambican private transport operators have 90 days to replace 15 seater minibuses with larger passenger vehicles, under new transport regulations approved by the government. According to Olivio Pinto, national director of road transport, interviewed by the independent television station STV, the growth in the urban population demands the use of larger and more comfortable vehicles. Three months from now, only buses that can carry 40 or more passengers will be allowed on the roads of Mozambican cities."Compulsory timetables seek to discourage operators from starting the journey whenever they see fit, and leaving citizens waiting at bus stops for hours, without knowing when the bus will appear", the deputy national director of road transport, Taibo Issufo, told reporters at a seminar to publicise the new regulations.
("15 Seater Passenger Vehicles to be Banned, AIM NEWS)

Banning small chapas seems highly unlikely given the reality of public transport in Mozambique, but moving toward safer vehicles and actually enforcing operating regulations is definitely a step in the right direction.

I don't take chapas. I've done it a few times, either out of total necessity or when riding with a local friend, but they make me claustrophobic and I find the safety issues to be quite terrifying. Before we had a car, I was happy to save money on food, entertainment, electricity consumption - just about anything - rather than be forced to take a chapa for budget reasons.

For many foreigners, riding chapas has massive "authenticity appeal," so I suppose it's time to take advantage of the experience while it is still around. After all, nonchalantly telling friends back home at a dinner party that you rode to work every day in Maputo in a regular bus really doesn't have the wow-factor of saying you were shoved in a Hiace with 25 other passengers, someone else's snotty baby on your lap, a chicken between your feet (not yours either, of course), and the guy who makes change discreetly trying to cop a feel while you struggle to the front of the vehicle after having yelled "Paragem!" in a desperate attempt to get the bloody thing to stop within walking distance of your destination.


Fly Brother said...

Reminds me of the buses in Barranquilla, their seats packed so close together that slamming on the brakes hard could shatter any kneecaps unlucky enough to be pressed up against the metal back of the seat in front.

I started cabbin' it or hoofin' it after a few close calls.

(I also stopped using mototaxis after burning my calf on a scalding muffler).

sayama said...

I get chapas all the time.. but the novelty wears off quickly. Still, the 'cobrador' has never tried to grope me- should I be worried? ;)

La Framéricaine said...

I'm sure that you have a lifetime's worth of jewels to let slip nonchalantly from your lips that will dumbfound your friends and delight any children who might be haunting your future, among which chapas are the least amazing!

Stay safe.

Word Verif: mending