It’s a hard and dangerous taxi ride

2008-07-25 00:00

Although the majority of Durban’s taxi commuters will tell you that many of the new government-permitted taxis have extra, illegal seating, Durban’s Metro Police say they have never seen it.

Government spent R7,7 billion to do away with unsafe taxis when it announced its Taxi Recapitalisation Programme in 1999. It gave taxi owners a R50 000 scrapping allowance for their old taxis to help them buy the new, safer ones.

But Durban’s taxi owners, drivers and their conductors are using up every available space of the new Ses’fikilie 14-seater minibus taxis, stuffing commuters in and endangering their lives in the process. Twenty commuters per taxi is common.

They employ a range of tactics that include making passengers sit on taxi engines, buckets, crates and even kids’ plastic chairs. “The taxi engine is situated in between the driver and the front passenger seat,” said regular South Beach commuter Akhona Mthethwa.

“They make two people sit on it and if you are lucky, the driver will put a pillow there to sit on.

Passengers are regularly asked to stand … We sit on buckets and even baby chairs are common.”

She was one of many commuters interviewed by Kwana, who gave us the same information.

Yet Metro Police’s Thomas Tyala said: “This is the first time we hear of such an activity. I am on the road now and I will have to look into it.”

Minutes later, Tyala reported back that he had driven to the nearest taxi rank and witnessed the illegal activity first hand. So what action will Metro Police take? “We will look into this and we will intensify our patrols.”

But even Willie Mbhense, spokesman for the KZN Transport Alliance, said he is not aware of the illegal seating on taxis. “We have noticed the driver’s helper sitting on the crates, but not the passengers. If this is really happening, it is wrong and police and the associations involved should be dealing with it. Passengers can’t be stashed like animals or goods.”

Taxi owners are aware of it. A taxi driver who did not want to be named said, “All the taxis do it”.

Adey Canthitoo, PRO of the South and North Beach Taxi Association, also knows about this illegal practice. “We are aware of the act and if we find any crates in the vehicles we remove them and the driver faces a disciplinary hearing.

“Depending on the number of offences, a first offender is fined R50 and another R50 is added if he continues to disobey the law.”

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