Taxi-moto operators have reported a slow day characterized with limited clientele as they took to roads for the first time in over two months.
Taxi-moto transport was halted in March when government announced a total lockdown across the country; and operators had since then been waiting for green light from the government to get back to work.
Their operations, together with inter-province travel by all means of transport, had remained on halt even after many sectors of the economy were reopened at the beginning of May, as the country continued to fight the global pandemic of Covid-19.
The two activities were given a greenlight on Tuesday January 3 by an extraordinary cabinet meeting chaired by President Paul Kagame. Only travel in and out of the districts of Rusizi and Rubavu remained restricted.
In interviews with The New Times, different taxi-moto operators did not hide the excitement they had to go back to work, however, still those we talked to reported less clientele than that they used to have before Covid-19.
“Compared with how we used to work, today we had fewer clients. I think it is because some people are afraid to have contact with others,” said Samuel Hakizimana, an operator in Kigali.
“I think they (people) are waiting to make sure that the virus is really over,” he added.
By the time we spoke with Hakizimana, it was close to 6 PM, but he said he had only transported about ten passengers, a number that is way less than that he used to carry before the pandemic.
According to him, he used to carry about 30 people in a day before the Covid-19 outbreak.
Theoneste Rukundo, another motorist we spoke to was facing the same challenge.
By around 11 AM when we interacted with him, he said he had only transported about 3 people, having started work at around 8:30 AM. He said this might have been caused by the fact that it was only the first day after the return of the moto-bikes on the road.
“We are happy that we are back to the road. The past days have been difficult for us financially. We are now working though we have few clients. It is the first day, and I think things will improve,” he said.
Viatel Nkundimana, another operator blamed the few numbers on the current situation where there are fewer movements of people.
“People have not yet started to move. But we hope that as we have come back things will be better. We have to continue to protect ourselves and overcome this pandemic. Slowly by slowly, things will turn out well,” he said.
“We should respect the measures in place; wash our hands, wear masks, among the things we are required to do,” he said.
With the return of taxi-motos, one would have thought that the bus transporters would be affected in terms of clientele, considering that bus prices were increased by the government.
However, the bus operators we spoke to, said the clientele situation was pretty much the same as when moto-bikes were not operational.
“We are having passengers. Buses are only allowed to carrying few passengers due to social distancing measures, and we are getting them as usual,” said Jean Bosco Niyukuzigirwa, a bus driver who operates the Remera-Nyabugogo route.
His counterpart Frere Nsanzumwire, a driver operating the Nyabugogo-Kinyinya route echoed the same,
“Our clientele is as usual. Perhaps it is the evening hours that will make the difference. You know in the evening people are rushing and they may get weary of waiting and opt to take a taxi-motos instead of buses,” he said.