Calls to Stem City Taxi Flood

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK Traffic congestion in the city that not only affects ordinary business people and city dwellers has led to calls to the Ministry of Works, Transport and Communication to reduce the increase in road traffic. Following what some observers feel is unacceptable behaviour of taxi drivers in the capital and beyond, the Namibia Bus and Taxi Association (NABTA) says the ministry should stop issuing taxi licences. NABTA president Magnus Nangombe told New Era that at present, Windhoek only has an estimated 2 000 taxis in operation, a number too high for a population of 250 000 residents. “This is economically not viable and these people cause chaos because they are actually fighting for their bread,” he stated. Last year in May, NABTA submitted a proposal to the Department of Transport in the Ministry of Works, Transport and Communication suggesting that the ministry puts the issuing of taxi licences on hold as there is a need to conduct a study that would determine how the industry is performing. “There is need to stop issuing licences, maybe for the next five years. The industry is flooded. Though there is a need for transport, people only use it mainly in the morning and at 5 pm,” said Nangombe. Despite numerous follow-ups with the ministry, NABTA says, a meeting aimed at streamlining the industry that was scheduled for January 19, 2006 was postponed to another date due to lack of coordination between the two parties. A clearly disappointed Nangombe said a meeting of this magnitude should be treated with urgency and is supposed to be held for two days to make room for protracted deliberations. “Up to now, we are waiting for a new date from the ministry. NABTA is ready for the meeting but if the ministry continues handling things this way, we will always be running in circles,” he stated. Efforts to seek comment from the Ministry of Works, Transport and Communication proved futile, as the people dealing with the issue were unavailable. Commenting on the recent uproar between taxi drivers and traffic officers, Nangombe acknowledged the inconsiderate driving behaviour of taxi operators. He said this could only be brought to an end once there was a limitation to the issuance of licences. With the flooding of taxis on the street comes the inconsiderate driving behaviour particularly by taxi operators, such as parking offences and constantly obstructing other motorists. This in turn affects the free flow of traffic in the city centre area, along Independence Avenue and the one-way Dr Frans Indongo Street. In an effort to bring order to the transport field, the City of Windhoek early last week announced the implementation of restrictions on the activities of taxi drivers plying the route along Independence Avenue, between John Meinert and Fidel Castro streets. The move is part of the outcome of the Public Transport Plan and Central Business District Traffic Circulation Study undertaken two years ago. The decision has frustrated some taxi drivers and towards the end of last week, it was reported that some taxi drivers were involved in squabbles that almost resulted in physical fights with traffic officers. Though he could not give details on what exactly happened, Senior Traffic Officer Eliphas !Owos-aob confirmed that some taxi drivers interfered with traffic officer’s operations, adding that he still had to interview the officers who were involved in the wrangle. NABTA feels that such restrictions are necessary especially that taxi drivers seem to have no respect for other motorists. “We are in a business and each business has rules and regulations. In this case, we should operate in a professional manner and ensure that we do not injure others,” Nangombe noted. Not necessarily condoning restrictions put up by the City of Windhoek, Nangombe feels alternative taxi ranks must be provided. Due to lack of parking taxi points especially in places that might have many businesses and people, people are sometimes made to walk long distances to get to taxi points while taxi drivers are also forced to drop off people at points that are not legal. Nangombe says law enforcement officers at times exaggerate matters. “Most of the times, when we report issues to the police, they do not act and that is what is encouraging these few perpetrators.” Nangombe also told New Era that there is quite a number of “bakkies” transporting people to different destinations yet they do not have legal papers that show they can operate as public transporters. This according to him is criminal and unfortunately, the practice has led to frustration. In the meantime, NABTA has contacted all municipal councils with proposals to allocate land that could be developed into bus and taxi terminals, as the current state of affairs in almost every town in the country is frustrating. He gave Oshakati as an example. “In Oshakati, we have heard the outcry of people and how they are inhumanly treated. Sometimes a bag is loaded in one bus and the people in another and in the process valuable items are lost.” He urged members of the public to always take the registration numbers of the transport used and report cases of ill treatment to NABTA. “We know that people are frustrated and we are frustrated too.”