Upset over pirate taxis
“Why should someone have to die before the authorities listen to our pleas for help?” asked Sulaiman Brenner, the manager and secretary of the Retreat Taxi Association.
Mr Brenner was speaking after the recent spate of incidents involving taxi drivers operating from the Retreat station and “pirate” drivers who were allegedly “stealing their passengers”. Two people have died in the fighting already and the death toll is set to rise as taxi drivers threaten to take matters into their own hands.
According to Mr Brenner, he has brought the issue of these “pirate” taxis, who operate without the correct permits, to the attention of various authorities. He says his requests have fallen on deaf ears. “They tell us that they have no manpower. The only time that we see them is when one of our drivers get shot or there is a break-out of violence,” Mr Brenner said.
Warrent Officer Rodney Franks, spokesperson for Kirstenhof police station, said they are aware of the ongoing taxi feud.
“We have raised this issue of illegal operators with numerous authorities relating to the Taxi Industry Regulatory Bodies,” he said , adding that much work needed to be done by the relevant traffic and transport authorities to effectively deal with illegal operators.
“The issue of public safety remains permanent and of the highest priority to us,” WO Franks said, “and we here at the Kirstenhof Police Station are monitoring the situation and will not hesitate to deal with any eventuality as it occurs. We reiterate though, the relevant authorities need to deal with this matter as efficiently and swiftly as possible.”
Vernon Billet, the regional executive chairperson of the South African National Taxi Association( SANTACO), said that he knew nothing of the feud, but would have to investigate the allegations.
When Constantiaberg Bulletin went to investigate, we were met by taxi drivers who refused to comment out of a fear for reprisals. The few who were willing to speak did so on the condition of anonymity.
“I need to pay my boss R700 every day and if I don't make my target I have to pay him back,” said one taxi driver. “This is becoming all the more difficult to do as more and more ‘pirate’ taxis steal my clients from me. What will happen to my family if I loose my job?”
“We are mostly law-abiding citizens, we have professional driving permits(PDP) and we have permits to operate in the area and they don't. The authorities know about this but they are not doing anything about it and when we barricade the roads to prevent them from operating in our area we get locked up.”
According to him, the pirate drivers operated along two main routes; the Capricorn to Fish Hoek route and the Westlake to Retreat station. “They are picking passengers up in Westlake and going straight to Wynberg and charging R7 for that! Of course passengers are going to go for that but they are meant to go from Westlake to Retreat Station and then from Retreat Station to Wynberg,” he said, adding that the same thing is being done along the Capricorn route where passengers are taken directly to Wynberg.
He said the taxi drivers were becoming all the more agitated with the situation and that it was just a matter of time before something unfortunate happened.
“Together with law enforcement, the Department takes a very strong stance against operators who have no permits to operate on particular routes, and those that unlawfully extend their operations to other routes,” said Robin Carlisle, MEC for Transport and Public Works, adding that the law enforcement has in the past issued fines and impounded vehicles operating in this way.
Another driver said he used to be able to make his target of R700 or R900 a day by nine or 10 in the morning but that now he would sometimes only make his target after 2pm, which did not leave him much time to earn a living for himself and his family.
“I am losing hundreds of rands a day, I wish the law would do something about this,” he said. “And it is no use just patrolling the area, when they see the cops come they just drive away. If they happen to get caught they just get a fine which they get their friends to squash. They need to have their cars impounded, that is the only deterrent,” he said.
blob Illegal operators can be reported to the Public Transport Unit - the place, time, registration number - to 0860 103 089, or to the Department of Transport on 0860 212 414 or Law Enforcement on 021 596 1999
Words and images by Clinton Wittstock
Freelance writer and photographer
Article appeared in the Constantiaberg Bulletin