Picture: Willem Law
Picture: Willem Law

Chatsworth transport providers accuse taxi association of ’bullying’ tactics

By Charlene Somduth Time of article published Oct 15, 2021

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Association says illegal operators are taking away their business which is already reeling from the impact of Covid-19.

Durban: Private transport providers and carpool drivers have accused the Chatsworth Minibus Taxi Association of using bullying tactics to stop them from picking up passengers.

The association however claims they are only clamping down on unlicensed transport providers who unfairly affecting their business.

Bashir Razak Ismail, the spokesperson for the association, said Covid-19 and the recent looting has impacted negatively on the taxi industry, just like other businesses. It had lost customers and profits declined.

"Some of our commuters have lost their jobs, while others are still working from home. But since June we noticed a large number of seven-seater vehicles - like Avanzas, Datsun Go, and microbuses - operating in the mornings in Chatsworth with full loads of passengers. We realised this could also be a factor in our drop in passengers."

Ismail said the association decided to conduct its own research.

"We got our drivers to monitor the number of these vehicles that are on the road and record their number plates. We did this from June until the end of August. We recorded 281 vehicles."

He said the next step was to invite those drivers to a meeting.

"Last month, we handed out flyers to the drivers who we recorded in our research and invited them to a meeting with the metro police. Three separate meetings were held because of the large number of people. Some drivers attended, while others ignored us."

Ismail said at the meeting, he asked all those who had a licence to transport passengers from the eThekwini Transport Authority to leave the meeting.

"It was just a handful of people who had the licence. Those drivers, who did not have a licence, were told they needed to stop operating because their operation was illegal. We then explained the procedure one had to go through to get a licence. It was done in a diplomatic manner and we did not threaten or bully anyone."

Ismail said he understood people were trying to make a living.

"We are living in difficult financial times. We had a number of our taxis repossessed because the owners were not making enough money to pay their instalments. Previously, our rank in Chatsworth and in the Durban CBD would have lines of people. This is no longer the case. We don't mind if these transport providers run their business but it must be done legally.

"Currently, some of them are stealing the food from our family's mouths. This is not right at all. We have been liaising with the police to have the illegal drivers fined for not having a licence because we follow the protocols."

Ismail said passengers, who were concerned about their safety when travelling in a taxi, must also remember that the transport providers were not regulated.

"If there is an accident with a taxi, passengers can claim from the Road Accident Fund and the association is held accountable. Our drivers have PDPs (Professional Driving Permits) and are governed by a disciplinary code. What happens if there is an accident when you are in an illegal transport provider's vehicle?"

The owner of a transport vehicle said while he understood the association's concerns, it could not expect them to stop business.

"I started this business earlier this year after the company I worked at closed because of the financial impact of the pandemic. Members of the association are stopping us in the mornings and threatening us. We are told that we are not allowed to operate. We are scared to report the matter to the police because of their thuggish behaviour."

The owner said he transported passengers to town and back to Chatsworth.

"Passengers like the convenience of being picked up from their doorstep and dropped off at work. I got my driver's licence 20 years ago. The safety of my passengers is most important. You won't find me or other transport providers weaving in and out of traffic in a rush to get the next load."

He said the association should give passengers the right to choose who they wanted to travel with.

The owner said he was in the process of getting his licence from the eThekwini Transport Authority.

A woman, who runs a carpool with her work colleagues, said she was also threatened by members of the association.

"I travel with about six colleagues. I am not a transport provider. It is my personal vehicle that I use as a carpool. When I was stopped, the members of the association refused to listen to me. They told me what I was doing was illegal and that I could not operate my vehicle. They threatened to call the police."

She said she understood they were trying to regulate the industry but they needed to have all the facts before approaching people.

A passenger, who declined to be named, said she stopped travelling by taxi because of safety reasons.

"Some drivers are in a rush to pick up and drop off passengers in order to make money. In the process, their reckless driving puts passengers at risk. At times, I was concerned about my safety, so I opted to use a private transport provider. I pay a little extra but I have peace of mind that I will get to my destination safely."

The Department of Transport and the metro police did not comment by the time of publication.

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