By Charles Tjatindi
Motorists based in either Rehoboth or Okahandja and working in Windhoek that have been offering lifts to their colleagues and friends at a fee are committing a serious offence, which is punishable by law.
For some time now, those residing in Okahandja and Rehoboth, but employed in the capital, have been ferrying colleagues and friends, and in return request money from them – only to find out recently that such a practice is deemed illegal by Public Transport Operations laws.
Many that were stopped at roadblocks over the past few months and questioned about loading people in return for money, have expressed dissatisfaction with such a law, saying it does not cater for their situations.
“Why should I carry someone else for free in my car?
“That person is also working and has money like me. He should pay for my car,” said David Cloete, a car owner from Rehoboth.
Cloete noted that in the same way a person would have had to fork out money for public transport to get them to work, such monies could also be paid to vehicle owners.
“A car runs on fuel. How can I just let someone ride for free, and I cover all costs? That law is not fair,” he further noted.
Another vehicle owner, John Diergaardt also from Rehoboth, related how he was recently questioned at a roadblock and advised to stop transporting people for a fee.
“I told them these are my colleagues. We work together. How can I leave them behind? I live in the same street with these guys,” he said.
Despite his explanations, Diergaardt was allegedly warned not to transport people in his car anymore, unless they are riding for free.
According to the Under Secretary of Transport and Communication in the Ministry of Works, Transport and Communication, Willy Kauaria, such a law came into force to protect registered public transport operators, who often lose out on business because of such practices.
“These people are depriving business to minibus operators, who are fully licensed to serve this purpose.
“If such practice is not stopped, minibus operators would find themselves out of business,” he remarked.
Kauaria noted that contributing to fuel as a group in order to get from one point to another is not illegal, but said very often, vehicle owners charged full transport fees as in the case of licensed public transport. They would then use some of the money to fill the car up, and pocket the rest.
“If you say you ask for fuel money from your passengers, what would you call the amount that you put back in your pocket after the car has been filled up?” Kauaria wanted to know.
Kauaria noted that the law was also meant to halt illegal operations of some vehicle owners who drive between towns, transport people and ask for money from them.
“We know these cars. We have their number plates. I know these are mainly the people complaining.
“We know that many of them are not offering lifts to their friends like they claim, but are transporting up and down between towns. Licensed operators are pressuring us. We have to act,” says Kauaria.
However, many commuters New Era spoke to argued that it was easier and more convenient driving with a colleague than taking public transport.
“Public transport drivers are often rude and overspeed. You also have to wait until such a vehicle is full before it drives off,” commented one commuter from Okahandja.
Kauaria said the current Act is under review, and there is no telling as to whether such a law would remain in place, altered, or done away with altogether.
“The public must bear with us. We hear their worries … we are busy reviewing this Act.”