Commuters Caught Up in Taxi ‘War’

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By Charles Tjatindi WALVIS BAY Commuters using short-distance taxis between Walvis Bay and Swakopmund are unhappy about the conduct of some taxi drivers and what they term unprofessional service offered by the drivers. Due to the proximity of the two coastal towns, a lot of people commute regularly between them for work, school and other purposes. This however appears to be a living nightmare for the commuters who allege that they have to put up with unruly behaviour and utter disrespect from the taxi operators. At the center of the problem is the way taxi drivers solicit clients, which often include ‘forcing’ commuters into their taxis. The absence of a formal loading terminal that allows one taxi to load at a time has been identified as the cause of the problem. As a result, they say, taxi drivers compete for commuters which places commuters in an unpleasant situation. Said one commuter: “When you come after work for a taxi home to Swakopmund from Walvis Bay, it is a mess. About six different taxi drivers would approach you, with each one trying to win you over to his taxi. Some would even take your bag or whatever you have with you and throw it into their taxi. It is very uncomfortable.” Patricia Jaepa, a regular commuter between the two towns, said she sometimes arrives late at work due to dishonest taxi drivers. According to Jaepa, taxi drivers would approach people and offer them a ride under the pretext that their car is almost full and ready to leave. “When you get into the car, you find that you are the only one actually going to Walvis Bay – all the other people you saw in the car are just place holders and would get off almost immediately after you have entered the car. For that reason, you are forced to wait for some time before the taxi is filled and ready to leave,” she fumed. Another commuter echoed the same sentiments, adding that taxi drivers often drive at high speed when on the highway between Swakopmund and Walvis Bay, in an attempt to return early for another trip. “This places our lives in great danger, as they are also stubborn when being told or alerted about their speed. It is just not a comfortable thing riding in those taxis – you just pray that you reach your destination in time when on it throughout the trip,” he said. Similar allegations have also been levelled against long-distance drivers operating between Windhoek and the coast. Drivers are apparently ‘unapproachable’ and have a hostile attitude towards passengers. Short-distance taxi drivers on the other hand noted that they are only doing what is humanly possible to eke out a living, in light of fluctuating food and commodity prices. “If you stand and wait for a customer, you think anyone will come to your car? You have to go out there and convince them to get into your car,” said one of them. On the issue of proper loading structures, the taxi drivers are of the opinion that there are not enough commuters between the two towns to warrant such an arrangement. “If we have to load in a queue, my friend, some taxis will stay for more than a week without transporting. That is just the reality on the ground. The cost of living is high. We have to do whatever we can to survive,” said Petrus Shivute, a driver on the same route.