But MEC of Transport slams bullying of commuters
THE South African National Taxi Council (SANTACO) in Limpopo has called on the Department of Transport to curb hitchhiking in the province.
This follows last week Tuesday’s shooting of a taxi driver during a tug of war with hitchhikers in the Polokwane CBD.
It is alleged that a vehicle owner stopped by the roadside to give a hitchhiker a lift when he was approached by a group of taxi operators and a scuffle ensued, leaving one person dead.
“We cannot have a department and a provincial government that encourages hitchhiking because that statement in itself has a huge problem.
“The taxi industry along with the bus industry has made a commitment to provide transportation to the majority of our people and it would be reckless and careless to direct people to go hiking spots because we do not know how those drivers operate and it also compromises their safety,” said SANTACO provincial secretary Lesebo Mathobela.
He maintained that the taxi industry has been providing an essential service to communities for many years and their efforts and business should be protected by government.
Mathobela also said that despite the constant fuel price hikes, the taxi industry has always tried to meet the consumers halfway, by minimally increasing its fares.
“It is hard to compare taxi prices with an unregulated mode of transport. If people want to say taxi prices are high they must be in comparison with a regulated mode of transport.
“People should take into consideration that the types of vehicles used in the taxi industry are supposed to meet the requirements of the regulating body in a manner that appeals to a service standard so that regulates the pricing packages we deliver to commuters.
“We are the only mode of transportation in the whole world that offers affordable and cheap prices despite the economic crisis,” said Mathobela.
The issue of hitchhikers has been a constant thorn in the side of taxi operators. Commuters, however, indicate that the lawlessness that exists within the industry forces many of them to hitchhike.
Papi Ramapulana, a resident in Lebowakgomo said that he preferred hitchhiking because it is affordable compared to taxi fares.
“I cannot afford to use a taxi because I work here in town and each and every day I have to be here. So, hiking is cheap and fast. It is just that now they (referring to taxi association marshals stationed along the Church Street) give us problems whenever we catch a ride here. So, we have to go a little bit far from them,” said Ramapulana.
MEC of Transport Makoma Makhurupetje lambasted taxi drivers over the constant bullying of hitchhikers, stating that members of the community have the right to hitch-hike 500 meters from the taxi rank.
“Minibus owners have no right to bully hitchhikers for as long as it is happening 500 meters away from the taxi rank. The department has always encouraged taxi associations to engage with the department and the local municipality concerned on issues that they think are affecting their business so that it can be resolved within the prescripts of the law,” she said.
Makhurupetje called for calm and hoped that there would be no acts of retaliation from both sides.
“Let us allow the police to do their work as they are well equipped and trained for the work,” said Makhurupetje.