A resident of Bhekulwandle recalled a recent incident where she found herself in a roadblock which had been set up by taxi drivers who allegedly forced all passengers out of private cars, telling them to take minibus taxis.
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Sonto Mthethwa, who works in a shop in Doonside, and takes a lift in her sister’s car every morning on her way to work, said she was left stranded when taxi drivers blocked the car, saying that no passengers were allowed in a private car exiting the area.
“I felt so violated and was late for work. We tried to reason with them by explaining that I was not a hitchhiker, but that we are siblings and we live in the same house, but to no avail,” Mthethwa said.
After being told to get out or have the car seized, she said she had no choice but to get into a minibus taxi. She added that the taxi industry’s real problem is with email services, but they are venting their anger on innocent people.
“I understand that you can’t tell the difference between an e-hail taxi and a regular motorist driving with passengers and going about their business, but that doesn’t mean the whole community should be harassed. I may not always have a taxi ride and take a taxi with my sister or neighbor. So if I have to take a taxi, how will I pay? ” she asked.
Provincial spokesperson for the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco), Mduduzi Makhunga, said the organization does not condone the actions of taxi drivers who stop private cars and force passengers into taxis.
“While we condemn the actions of our drivers, we ask motorists to also respect the taxi industry and not pick up hitchhikers. If you have people with you in the car, you should not be stopped, but if you stop and pick up passengers because you want to make money on the side, then that’s a problem,” Makhunga said.
When asked if Santaco had a problem with email services, Makhunga said they had taken email companies to court because they were taking away taxi owners’ livelihoods.
“In this country there are laws, and one of those laws says to operate a taxi you need a license. Now all of a sudden there are these companies that allow almost anyone who to drive a taxi without a license, and that is bound to cause problems,” he said. While Santaco has no problem with technology and making people’s lives more convenient, Makhunga said that the laws should apply to everyone equally.
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