Hitch-hikers are urged to look out for a road sign – prohibiting them not to hitch-hike – to protect themselves from falling victim to criminal activities and transport industry related clashes over the festive season.The question has cropped up several times as to who owns the rights to operate at hiking spots, including whether the hitch-hikers have a say in this.It is once more that time of the year where an influx of travellers is experienced at hiking spots.During this time, clashes with and between taxi operators are rife and hitch-hikers have to choose whose vehicle they want to travel in.It was brought to the attention of Express Northern Cape that a private vehicle, that does not have an operating license for public transport, collects passengers at the identified areas, it should not charge any fee, and rather give the hikers a free ride.The taxi operators, who are members of the Kimberley Long Distance Transport Association, claim full right of the routes that they are parked next to.They feel they can prevent anyone from doing business in their territory.Rank manager Monnapula “Shaka” Mogapi blames all the clashes in the area on the illegal operators and defends their action of coercing travellers to use taxis as a measure to protect citizens.A call is being made to traffic officers and police to do their job in bringing the perpetrators (illegal operators) to book.“We have by-laws and full rights in the form of a professional driving permit (PDP), a fitness certificate and an operating license to transport people legally. Our terms also allow each of our 33 members to own at least four taxis to have an equal share as this is their only income.“Now these private car owners, who mostly have their own jobs and sometimes use state cars, are stealing our income,” Mogapi says. “The safety of passengers are also compromised as they are unprotected during accidents.”The association blames the drivers of private vehicles – who operate at hiking spots – of criminal activities as they put them at risk of losing income, and risking their taxis of being repossessed.Mogapi however highlights that there has not been any violent incidents reported regarding the matter in the past ten years. This is due to them making more effort to work closely with law-enforcement agencies and to solve matters internally. He advised passengers to board legal operating taxis with blue number plates for long distances.By the time of going to print, the police had not responded on the alleged cases regarding hitch-hiking.