Owners halt taxi service

2010-04-07 00:00

A GROUP of minibus taxi owners in Imbali, armed with sticks and knobkerries, stopped their minibus taxis from operating in protest against their association’s poor customer service yesterday.

Leaders of the Imbali Unit 13 and 15 Taxi Association called in the police after what it called a “few” owners, who were armed with sticks and knob­kerries, had threatened their drivers.

The drivers and rank managers were allegedly forced to stop work at about 8 am.

For most of the day, taxi drivers, leaders of the association and taxi owners gathered in two groups on both sides of FJ Sithole Road where about 50 taxis were parked. Leaders of the association said they were scared of being attacked by protesting owners.

The taxi owners were seen to be carrying sticks and knobkerries. Minibus taxis from other associations were invited to ferry commuters to and from the city against the will of the association.

“We are protesting against incompetence in this association and lack of customer care by our drivers. Commuters have been complaining about poor service ever since the new executive of this association took over,” said Thabani Ngubane.

Ngubane is a former chairman of the association, who lost his position when the association held elections in March last year.

Members of the association accused Ngubane and other owners of being bitter after they were voted out of the executive.

“We are not interested in any position, but we are fighting for the rights of our commuters to have decent treatment. This association cannot even discipline drivers to stop mistreating commuters. Sometimes the drivers spend hours eating at the rank, leaving people without transport,” said Brian Dlamini, who was voted out as the association’s chairman in 2003.

A spokesman for the association, Ntuthuko Hlela, accused Ngubane and Dlamini of being troublemakers.

“Ever since these two were voted out, they have been making this association ungovernable.

“Ngubane even said he would rather die than be ruled by the new association,” said Hlela.

Hlela said that if taxi services continue to be disrupted, commuters will be affected because minibus taxis from other associations will not be allowed to operate on their route.

Taxi drivers said they were shocked when they were forced to stop working.

“We woke up in the morning hoping to work as usual, but it shocked us when we were [told] to stop working,” said Khehla Masikane.

Masikane admitted that drivers mistreat commuters, and said they do that because they are frustrated by their bosses.

“First we have to apologise to members of the community for being disrespectful to them. Our behaviour comes as a result of being frustrated by our bosses.

“They insult us and dismiss us from work for minor reasons. They always call us dogs and say that we are poor while they are millionaires. They also accuse us of stealing their money,” said Masikane.

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