Time to Act against Taxis

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By Wonder Guchu WINDHOEK Last Thursday two fatal accidents occurred in Windhoek in which taxi drivers were involved. One taxi driver shot dead a local security company driver in Katutura in broad daylight for allegedly asking him (the taxi driver) to behave responsibly on the road, and another caused the death of a female passenger when he allegedly sped through a red robot. According to a police officer who was interviewed on radio on Friday morning, the taxi driver who had failed an alcohol test was not even capable of standing on his own. It is understood that the deceased woman was due to go abroad to further her studies, but because a reckless, drunk taxi driver has ended her young life, that dream has been shattered before it could materialize. That too could also be applicable to the driver who was killed in cold blood for voicing his concern about what was wrong and considered potentially dangerous for innocent passengers and pedestrians. Windhoek residents rely heavily on taxis for transport and, as such, these developments do not augur well for the well-being of passengers or for the image of the city, regarded as one of the cleanest and safest in southern Africa. Taxi drivers anywhere in the world are the face of the communities. They are the image of the country, and whatever the impression they give a visitor, it becomes the picture a tourist will take back home. But going to work or travelling from one end of the city to the other, has become a nightmare because of Windhoek’s taxi drivers who, in the race for passengers, cut corners, stop anywhere without checking, overtake without due care, block other traffic, speed through robots and make driving a hair-raising experience. Some of these drivers are cheats and extortionists who, when they realize the passenger is a visitor, demand exorbitant fares. The government is aware of these problems experienced at the hands of taxi drivers, but nothing concrete has yet been put in place to curb them. Minister of Safety and Security, Peter Tsheehama, said in a paper read on his behalf by his deputy, Gabes Shihepo, early this month: “If you see taxi drivers today, they don’t look at other cars. They just look at customers and this is now the trend we have. Some drivers even go so far as to insult traffic officers,” the statement read, adding that taxi drivers should remember that the lives of the passengers they carry are more valuable than the money they get at the end of the day. The fact that such incidents as the shooting and the fatal accident happened two weeks after the minister’s statement, is clear testimony that nothing has yet been done to rid the City of Windhoek of these undesirable elements who pass for taxi drivers. In what could also be clear proof of hopelessness, it was reported in a snap survey at the weekend, both passengers and some taxi drivers say it is necessary for some sort of control to be exercised by either the Police, the Windhoek Municipality, the Ministry concerned, or all of these authorities. “The problem is that there are now many more taxis on the road, resulting in drivers competing for passengers. In the process, they become reckless and endanger lives,” said one driver. He believes the time has come for Government to step in and put a stop to this madness by regulating taxi business. “Something must be done if the accidents and all related problems levelled against taxi drivers are to end,” he said. One passenger believes that zoning taxi routes would help to bring about some kind of control. “The fact that taxi drivers feel they can cross town or drive anywhere as long as there are passengers, has caused all the problems with which we are plagued. Keeping taxis on designated routes would help to stop competition and the speeding that comes with it,” he said. If this was done, he said, there would be taxis operating from Katutura to the city centre, and then other taxis could operate between Katutura and neighbouring suburbs without having to come to the city centre. Another driver felt there was need to limit the number of taxis an individual should operate because the taxi business was no longer profitable. “What is the need for one person to have ten taxis on the road when each taxi carries two passengers to the city? Sometimes we are wasting resources. If there were some sort of control, then people should be discouraged from operating more than two taxis,” he said. It is said that accident statistics have decreased – 4ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 183 between June/July 2004/2005, and then 4ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 001 between July 2005 and July 2006. But then, it is also said that the number of fatalities has drastically increased.