Parents who pay for their children to go to school in the back of bakkies have a week to make other plans.The Department of Transport (DoT) announced late last year that as of Thursday next week, pupils may no longer be transported in the back of bakkies.Transport spokesperson Nathi Sukazi said on Wednesday that the law amendment prohibiting anyone from carrying pupils and other persons in the back of bakkies for profit will be effective from May 11.He said anyone caught carrying children in the back of their bakkies will be arrested.Sukazi said the department wants to see taxi operators getting involved in transporting pupils and also helping omalume (the name for scholar transport drivers) become legal and start using safer and roadworthy means to transport pupils.KZN Scholar Transport Association spokesperson Jabulani Dladla, who also transports pupils in his bakkie, said the department never told them officially about the newly amended law. “We just learnt about this from newspapers and social media,” he said.Dladla said they were well aware of all the problems surrounding omalume and that there are talks with the Transport Department on how they can be helped to become legal. “We cannot afford Quantums. Some of my colleagues recently bought bakkies and are still paying for them. How does the government suggest we make a living?“Our government is not helping as they don’t come with a solid solution,” said Dladla, adding that he hopes government will assist them to acquire safer modes of transport, like Quantum taxis.Sukazi said the law amendment was an initiative by the DoT after they saw the high rate of road deaths involving bakkies, especially in the rural areas. “Bakkies should be used for what they were intended — for carrying goods and doing other work,” he said.Sukazi emphasised that this amendment was not only targeted at omalume, but to all those who carry people in the bakkies for profit, which usually happens in the rural areas.“We encourage people, especially parents, to prioritise their safety and the safety of their children by using safe and roadworthy means of transportation,” said Sukazi.‘Ban should apply regardless of payment or not’Arrive Alive spokesperson Johan Jonck said he “completely disagrees” with the Department of Transport’s amended law.“The amendment does not represent a ‘tightening’ of legislation regarding the transportation of people in the back of bakkies, but rather represents a significant ‘relaxation’ of the law,” said Jonck.Jonck made an example of a company transporting its workers in the goods compartment of a bakkie and a parent who decides to assist other parents by ferrying their children to and from school or a sports event.“Provided they do so without accepting any payment, then school children and workers may be conveyed on the back of a bakkie,” he said.Jonck said it had long been the assertion of Justice Project South Africa that the transportation of anyone in the goods compartment of any vehicle should be prohibited entirely, whether a fee is charged or not.“The goods compartment of any vehicle — regardless of whether it is a motor car, a bakkie or a truck — is not designed for the transportation of people and typically such compartments have none of the safety features which are incorporated in the passenger cabin of such vehicles,” said Jonck.“There are no seats, no seat-belts, no air-bags, no crumple zones, no side-impact protection in the goods compartment of bakkies and even where seats are fitted as an aftermarket accessory, these seats or benches are fitted to provide a little more comfort; not to enhance the safety of passengers in the event of a collision.“If the Department of Transport is serious about road safety and reducing the carnage on our roads, then it will ban the transportation of people on the back of bakkies entirely and prevail on SARS to extend the VAT refunds which may be claimed on commercial vehicles to double-cabs and minibuses.” Readers share their viewsWITNESS readers took to Facebook to voice their views about the prohibition of carrying people in the back of bakkies for profit.• Brenda Donaldson: It should be illegal to transport all persons in the back of bakkies period, otherwise the excuse will be that they are being transported for free. KZN Transport Department must seriously consider bringing back a reliable bus system to cater for the school kids and those who do not drive.• Zama KaMkhize Cele: They’re laying down the laws but creating loopholes themselves while at it. •Mathenji Du Mshengu: ... My son won’t take a taxi. ... he will rather walk. I will make sure he wakes up so early so he can walk. •Farouk Ally: It took so many innocent lives lost for this decision to be taken. DoT must implement this prohibition without fear or favour. •Welly Marttely: How will they prove if it’s for profit or not?