Only people who “have the conditions” to acquire cars should apply for driving licences, declared Mozambique’s Deputy Transport Minister Manuela Rebelo on Monday, cited by the independent television station STV.
Rebelo was questioned by reporters about the enormous increases in the fees for driving licences and other services handled by the government’s National Land Transport Institute (INATTER), which will take effect as from 5 November.
The cost of a driving licence rises by 400 per cent, from 500 to 2,500 meticais (from 8.4 to 41.7 US dollars). The price of a vehicles registration document rises from 88 to 1,850 meticais (an increase of slightly more than 2,000 per cent). The cost of a driving test rises from 100 to 2,185 meticais (also an increase of over 2,000 per cent).
Rebelo said the rises are necessary because the government will no longer subsidise the services provided by INATTER, and as a result INATTER will have to charge the real price for documents such as driving licences.
“You don’t think that a driving licence can be produced for just 500 meticais, do you?”, she asked the reporters. (A Mozambican driving licence is a laminated biometric card, bearing the portrait of the bearer).
But she went much further and said that, unlike an identity card, which is obligatory for all citizens, nobody is obliged to drive a car and thus have a driving licence. So only those who “have the conditions” to obtain a car, should apply for a driving licence.
She was not specific – but it was assumed she meant financial conditions, which would rule out the vast majority of Mozambican citizens. Rebelo’s remarks have caused outrage on Mozambican social media, with many commenting that learning to drive does not necessarily imply owning a car, and that there are plenty of jobs where possession of a driving licence is a requirement.
Some Facebook posters who are usually strong supporters of the government distanced themselves from Rebelo. “Does a pilot take a course because he has a plan to buy an aircraft”, asked one of them. “Does a train driver take his licence because he wants to buy a train?”