Mozambique: transport officials sacked after road tragedy
Following the terrible road accident in Maluana, in Maputo province, on July 3 in which 32 people lost their lives, the Ministry of Transport on July 7 sacked Ana Simoes, the director general of the National Institute of road transport (INATRO), and Claudio Zunguze, the national director of transport and security at the ministry.
INATRO and the National Directorate are the two bodies responsible for ensuring road safety. Ana Simoes headed INATRO and its predecessor, INATTER (National Institute of Land Transport) since 2015. The same year, Claudio Zunguze was appointed head of the National Directorate of Transport and Security.
Ensuring road safety is one of the key tasks of INATRO, including the inspection of bus companies and other road transport operators.
The Maluana tragedy occurred when a bus traveling from Beira to Maputo attempted to overtake a truck carrying construction sand and collided with an articulated truck heading in the opposite direction. Desperately trying to get back on track, the bus driver also struck the truck he had passed, which overturned. 32 of the bus passengers died, 31 on site and one at Maputo Central Hospital.
At its weekly meeting, the Council of Ministers (Cabinet) announced two days of national mourning for the victims of the Maluana disaster, during which the flags will be half-masted. Government spokesman and deputy justice minister Filimao Suaze also announced that an independent commission of inquiry will investigate the causes of the accident and propose measures to improve road safety.
Arnaldo Abel, a representative for Nhancale Transport, the company that owns the bus, admitted that the driver (who is now in custody) may be to blame. Quoted by the Portuguese news agency Lusa, Abel said “we accept that human error has had a negative influence”. Abel said the company will help survivors and families of the victims, including transporting the bodies of the victims to Beira.
The board of inquiry will examine how fast the bus was traveling and whether the driver should have been behind the wheel. For road transport, regulations already stipulate that a driver cannot be at the wheel for more than eight hours a day and must take a break of at least half an hour after four hours of driving.
According to published information, there was only one driver on the Nhancale Transport bus. The road distance between Beira and Maputo is approximately 1,200 kilometers, which is impossible to cover in eight hours, especially since parts of the road are in poor condition.
INATRO has been facing a new scandal since the Central Office for the Fight against Corruption (GCCC) on July 5 ordered the arrest of 16 of its employees for their involvement in a scheme to falsify biometric driving licenses and driver’s license sales to has never attended driving school or passed a driving test.
People who wanted a driver’s license could, according to the GCCC, simply pay 30,000 meticais (US $ 473) to the corrupt staff network.
The accused had all worked at INATTER and made a smooth transition to INATRO when the institution changed its name. Most of them came from the INATTTER delegation from the city of Maputo. They included people who were supposed to write theoretical and practical driving tests, examiners, IT specialists and secretarial staff.