MAGUFULI bus terminal Dar e salaam a home for the homeless

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Summary
Opened officially in early 2021 by President John Magufuli, the ultra-modern terminal was touted to be the solution to bus congestions that were characteristic of the Ubungo terminal

Dar es Salaam
. It is past 10pm at the latest addition of key landmarks in Dar es Salaam, the Magufuli Bus Terminal, which even at this late hour it remains a beehive of activity as businesses continue running, buses from the upcountry arrive bringing in hundreds of travellers.

One gets the impression that this place really never sleeps, perhaps a sign that Dar es Salaam is slowly but surely moving towards a 24-hour economic hub.

The terminal’s specialised passenger lounge is full of people, some are seated, others are trying to catch a light sleep as others lay on the floor because there aren’t many chairs to sleep on.

Such people are mostly those expecting to travel early on the following day, while others are there to wait for their relatives expected to arrive on buses reachign the city late in the night.

But, some homeless people have turned the facility into their home.

Although officials at the terminal describe how difficult it is for people to sneak in and make the passenger lounge their home, a two-night survey confirms otherwise.

“I will be traveling to Zanzibar (home) tomorrow. I came here four days ago to pick up some goods at Kariakoo and I have been doing it every day and coming back to sleep here,” said Mohamed Mussa, 35, who was found sleeping at the stand that doesn’t provide transport to the islands of Zanzibar.

“I have actually saved more than Sh200,000, which I would have paid for my accomodation elsewhere, instead I have added it to my business,” said the entrepreneur from the Isles.

“I was able to do that because no one would notice that I was sleeping here all those nights because I always get out of this place as early as passengers begin to board their buses,” he said.

An official who asked not to be named because he has no authority to speak said the kind of security at the terminal cannot in any way give room for a person or family to make it their place of relief during nights.

“Everyone who enters the facility must have a ticket that indicates he will be travelling on the following day and the security guards are constantly checking. Those who are caught without tickets are subjected to legal action,” he explained.

“The terminal is known to be for travellers, anyone who treats it differently must have their days numbered…” he stressed. However, the survey found out that accessing the lounge is as easy as paying Sh200 fee at one of the terminal entrances.

After arriving at the terminal grounds during one night, a group of four men welcome The Citizen’s reporter, expecting a customer for the next day.

“Brother, are you travelling to Arusha or Mwanza? Tickets are available,” one of them shouted as they continued convincing.

“We have seats for luxury, ordinary buses and if you want to travel tonight there are private buses as well... ”

After having paid Sh300 at the main gate, walking over the stairs to the passenger lounge, many people are found there, some sleeping, others continuing running their businesses.

“The security here is adequate, so people can sleep without problem and every night people are crowded here as many do not go to sleep in hotels because of the cost,” explained one guard who also asked not to reveal his name.

From around midnight to 2am, the long waited upcountry buses start arriving.

However, surprisingly, even after all the arrivals depart, the lounge at the facility still looks full while food and beverage vendors continue with their business.

“Some people do live here, although it is not allowed. There are those who do not have a special shelter in Dar es Salaam, especially those who work here at the terminal,” revealed a food vender whose name is withheld.

“They have made this place their home by pretending to be travellers. However, we are happy because they are among our most trusted customers and we cannot reveal them to security guards either,” she added.

She gestures to one of the areas where such people sleep. After moving closer to them for a conversation while pretending to be in need of accommodation for two days, they started opening up.

“Brother, we sleep here not because we are allowed, but we use our means to go unnoticed. There are so many of us, so you better look for a hotel outside,” explained one of them as his colleagues warned him against the guards who were not too far away.

“I earn about Sh10,000 daily here (at the terminal). I come from Iringa where I have a family that needs my support. Now if I rent a room, will I really be able to serve my family? That is why we sleep here like passengers without being noticed,” he explained.

A beverage vendor said the group was in breach of the law as the slot has already been declared to belong to passengers and those waiting to receive travellers from upcountry to rest in the hall.

“Here the security is guaranteed and those who sleep here must be very clever because if they are discovered they will be dealt with,” she revealed.

“We notice the same faces that sleep here even for a whole week as they are only getting entry receipts that cost a mere Sh300 and not necessarily a travel ticket,” she noted. One of the security guards, who said was the inspector on that particular night, insisted; “Brother listen to me, no one is sleeping here without a travel ticket and all those receiving travellers introduce themselves and leave after their guests arrive.”

Despite his persistence, this reporter entered the facility and arrived at the passenger area, without ticket checking by anyone and slept there until morning.

At a cost of more than Sh50 billion, the Magufuli terminal helped to alleviate bus congestion at the former Ubungo But Terminal as it is reported to have the capacity of holding about 3,000 buses.

The presence of the terminal has also spawned new economic opportunities for locals and visitors. Hotels and guest houses near the station, are some of the booming businesses currently, giving the owners a sound income.


   TOA MAONI YAKO HAPA

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