Someone once told me that about 60% of all accidents in Malawi are caused by minibus drivers. To that I must say, “Only 60?” Driving in Malawi, like anywhere, is an "at your own risk" venture. Signal lights aren’t used, about half of the brake lights do not work (nor the tail lights...nor the head lights...). Driving at night is not a "life extending" idea in any form.
The life blood of the minibus is, of course, the passenger. Without him, no money! The passenger holds so much value that the driver will often stop in the middle of the road to pick up another patron. However, this is done without pulling over or giving anyone around him sufficient time to stop. Now, there are countless things that could be said in a less than positive way of mini buses, not just in Malawi but in Africa as a whole. Instead, let's talk about the brilliance of the minibus!
Minibus drivers can make a 120 km trip with an over loaded bus on 5L of petrol!!! HOW? Let me explain. The gas tank is often not used in a minibus, rather a small jerry can between the driver and passenger seats. A fuel line goes from the jerry can to the engine. That line has a large clamp on it to limit the fuel flow, starving the engine of most of the 'would be' consumed petrol...enough, but just, to get from point A to HALF way to point B. Often times they only have enough cash on hand to pay for half the fuel needed to complete their trip. A friend will meet them part way with the other 2.5L. Then the minibus is back on its way, having been able to pay with the money received from passengers.
You could see how the fuel limiting clamps would effect the bus' responsiveness should a problem arrive, yes? So, though they serve a great purpose and are a necessity of travel in the African context…if you are walking, on a bike, or driving along, and you see a minibus…RUN!