Rat-running taken to task

Taxis park at a rank. (Duncan Alfreds, News24, file))
Taxis park at a rank. (Duncan Alfreds, News24, file))

Despite stringent enforcement measures, minibus-taxi drivers guilty of going off route continue to be a headache for City enforcement agencies and residents alike.

Liz Brunette, the councillor for ward 62, says the prevalence of off-route taxis is particularly high in Wynberg where streets are narrow and traffic congestion along the Main Road has been a problem since before the 1960s.

“Taxi drivers want to get to their destination as quickly as possible to earn an income, and traffic congestion delays them,” says Brunette.

As a result, quite a few taxi drivers deviate from approved routes and race through suburban streets. Brunette says most streets between Alphen Hill Road and Waterloo Road, and the Main Road between Constantia Road and Wetton Road are affected.

Mayco member for transport Felicity Purchase says mini-bus taxis operating from Wynberg to the broader Constantia areas have used Piers Road for several years now.

“The taxis use a detour on their return to avoid congestion along Main Road. We can confirm that none of the operators operating from the Wynberg PTI has this route on their operating licences,” says Purchase.

Mzoxolo Dibela, the spokesperson for the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco), says it is an infrastructure problem.

“The City and town planners need to rethink and implement a new road design,” Dibela says.

He says sometimes taxi drivers have no choice but to take a detour.

“It does not necessarily mean they are contravening the law. When there is an obstruction in the road, for example, an accident, they take a detour. They have to get their passengers to work on time. There aren’t any dedicated lanes for taxis like there are for buses,” he says.

Captain Silvino Davids, the spokesperson for Wynberg police station, confirms the station frequently receives reports of off-route taxis from residents.

“Normally, we relay the message to traffic services and law enforcement active in the area. They manage to stop them or divert them back on to the road or give them fines.”

Brunette says she too receives regular complaints from residents.

“I have arranged meetings with community-based organisations and law enforcement, Metro police and traffic services,” she says.

Brunette explains the City’s Transport Regulations department determines how many permits are issued for each taxi route and they meet with councillors when necessary, the most recent being two weeks ago.

“The City’s safety and security directorate has a blitz twice a week during which traffic officers and Metro police work together. About 132 000 fines are issued every month and most of them go to taxi drivers,” she says.

Mayco member for safety and security JP Smith says the City has significantly stepped up its enforcement actions in this area in recent months.

“With violent consequences, as we saw from the days-long protest in Dunoon and the taxi blockade in the CBD in mid-October.”

Between 6 October and 3 November, officers held operations in Retreat, Wynberg, Constantia and Kirstenbosch. They recorded 347 traffic offences and impounded four vehicles for operating without a valid permit, or in contravention of their permit conditions.

In addition, regular warrant checks are conducted in these areas under the auspices of Operation Reclaim.

Smith says traffic services issues fines for transgressions of the National Road Traffic Act or the City’s Traffic By-Law. In instances where taxi drivers are operating without a valid permit or in contravention of the conditions of their permit, the vehicle is impounded. 

“Arrests are made in instances where a crime is deemed to have been committed. Drivers can have their driving licenses suspended, depending on the nature of an offence/s when they appear in court,” explains Smith. 

In terms of the National Land Transport Act of 2009, Section 79(2)(b), operators who do not comply with the conditions of their operating permits may have their operating licences withdrawn or suspended. 

Smith says enforcement is happening but that it is but one link in the chain. 

“Until we are able to hit repeat offenders where it hurts, through permanent impoundment of vehicles or harsher penalties for traffic transgressions, the chaos on our roads will continue unchecked. 

“The City does not have the mandate to impose such sanctions, but we continue lobbying the levels of the government that do.”

However, Burnett says taxis are not the only vehicles that rat-run using the roads through the suburb. 

“Residents and pedestrians need to obey the rules of the road and follow the road safety guidelines. Children should not be unsupervised in the roads and if they live on a property that does not have a garden; Maynardville Park is within walking distance.”

The City has made available a form residents can use to report offending taxi operators. Download the form from the Wynberg Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association’s website. A photograph of an offending taxi with its number plate visible is required by the transport regulations department.

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