Metered taxis: ‘Dept denying us permits’

2014-08-27 00:00

PIRATE metered taxi operators have came out guns blazing against accusations that they are ruining the industry and have little respect for customers.

“We survive on this job. We feed our children and look after our families with this job, so how can we ruin it by attacking and robbing passengers?” asked Bhekaphi Mpanza.

Several operators from the Sxaxambiji union representing pirate metered taxis descended on The Witness offices yesterday, following a report on Monday detailing complaints against illegal operators.

Mpanza conceded some of the drivers were registered as taxi operators but are not allowed to do business in town, while others were not registered at all.

He said this, however, did not mean they were anarchists that stole customers, and attacked and robbed passengers.

“One of the problems we are facing is that we are being denied permits. The Department of Transport says there are no more permits, yet we find new taxis joining legally regularly,” he said, adding that he had been in the industry for more than eight years.

Mpanza said it was not true they were stealing passengers from legal operators because passengers chose them because of their cheaper rates and because they would travel where the legal taxis would not go.

“We cannot be accused of stealing passengers because our customers call us directly, whereas the customers of the legal operators have to call a call centre and then a taxi is dispatched to wherever the customer is.”

Mpanza said they too were facing problems with the influx of other illegal operators.

“Often these people park in areas like taverns, where passengers are more vulnerable. The person will be drunk and they will simply get into the taxi without checking, and that is when people get injured or attacked.

“Those people who use their cars as taxis at night have ruined our name in the public’s eyes,” he said.

Thobeka Mafumbatha of the Msunduzi Municipality said many operators have licences but do not comply with their licence conditions.

The police said there had been no reports of customers attacked in metered taxis.

warning signs

Mpanza said there were several tell-tale signs that customers should be aware of in the metered taxi industry.

Customers should avoid getting ­into any taxi that has two men. “Metered taxis do not have conductors; there should be a driver and a passenger only.”

Know the number plate, demand the driver’s business card or a phone number and make sure it works.

“… If you ask a driver for a price or an area and he does not give a straight answer, he does not work regularly, so avoid that taxi,” he said.

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