POLOKWANE – Drivers who embark on random patrols around the city prohibiting hitchhiking say that when they prevent motorists from transporting passengers, these drivers vandalize their vehicles and even threaten them with violence.
A driver who spoke to Polokwane Observer on condition of anonymity said his vehicle’s single window was damaged by a private driver who picked up people from a location within the authorized route on which said drivers’ association of taxi has authority.
Read more: Stop hitchhiking and putting your life at risk – taxi association urges
At the N1 roundabout, there is often a line of hitchhikers hoping for a discounted ride.
One told Polokwane Observer that ‘long distance taxis take too long to fill up and a hike is cheap so I save money’.
A hitchhiker told Polokwane Observer that they give commuters “discounts, unlike taxis which are expensive, but we have to be careful because sometimes taxis come out of nowhere and start fighting with us and private car owners.
Local and long-distance taxi coordinator in Limpopo, Joe Modisha, said they urgently needed to meet police and other authorities to reduce hitchhiking before the situation turned violent.
“Our drivers do not want to resort to violence but we have already recorded cases of drivers being shot, vandalized cars and physical threats from private drivers, who want to take business from the taxi industry , it’s going to get ugly if we don’t act in time.
Transport spokesman Matome Moremi-Taueatsoala said he sympathized with anyone affected by the discrepancies between hitchhikers and taxi drivers, but “the practice is not illegal, especially when it occurs 500 m from a taxi rank”.
He said there are taxis that come to the province to transport people on occasions such as weddings and funerals, and then want to transport other passengers on their way back to Gauteng.
Moremi-Taueatsoala said the department supports a dialogue between all of the company’s stakeholders.
Commenting on behalf of the police, Lt Col Mamphaswa Seabi said that as law enforcement they only have a mandate to raise awareness, informing commuters of the dangers of traveling in a private vehicle.
“However, we cannot advertise the work of the taxi industry by imposing modes of transport on people. We can only advise. It is always within the right of citizens to decide for themselves how they want to travel,” he concluded.
Also read: Police warn of dangers of hitchhiking