We hope that when taking the decision to ban ordinary citizens from exercising their constitutional right of choosing their preferred mode of transport when travelling from one destination to another in the country, MEC for Community Safety and Transport Management, Mpho Motlhabane and his administration gave the decision careful and thorough thought.
We are hopeful that the move will not at any stage, “return and retaliate” against the authorities whose intentions, we believe, are aimed purely at bringing sanity in the taxi business and operations in the region.
Dr Motlhabane announced last week that his department had decided to close down all hiking spots from where hitch-hikers either use illegal taxis or get private lifts to transport them to various destinations.
The ban, Dr Motlhabane said was already in force and anybody found to be breaking the law would be ruthlessly dealt with “to ensure that people obey the law”.
“We condemn the use of illegal transport operations in Mahikeng and encourage communities to utilise authorised public transport.
“We are sending a strong warning to those operating without operating licenses. The Department will conduct a special clampdown operation in order to close all hiking spots and illegal transport operators in Mahikeng.
“We are not going to allow our people to be transported with vehicles that do not have operating permits. These illegal operators put the lives of our people in danger and we will not allow this,” he said.
He said the department had declared war on illegal and unauthorised taxi operators in Mahikeng.
“This concerted program is deliberately geared towards ‘reclaiming of our streets and roads campaign,’ in line with a clear government position of Repositioning, Rebranding and Renewal of Bokone Bophirima Province in general and Mahikeng in particular”, added MEC Motlhabane.
We hope that the decision will indeed address and resolve the tensions simmering between licensed taxi operators and those with no licenses and permits and would in effect encourage illegal operators to register their vehicles and utilise official taxi ranks from where they can legally and peacefully run their businesses and become contributors to the broader economic growth of the province and country.
There have been too many killings of innocent people in the taxi industry where taxi operators, owners and taxi bosses have been brutally murdered in the past.
Ordinary commuters and or passengers have also not been spared the ordeal where a number of hitch-hikers have also been killed after been caught in the cross-fire during the feud between the legal and illegal taxi drivers or operators.
What makes matters worse is that in many cases, police have to intervene where ordinary motorists offering hitch-hikers lifts in their private vehicles are usually also confronted by these taxi operators who forcefully remove hikers from private vehicles (at times at gun point or the use of an assortment of dangerous weapons).
In this instance, people’s rights of choosing their preferred mode of transport are ignored and they are forced to go to the taxi rank and use licensed taxis.
Gone are the days when people rushing for scheduled appointments including for medical reasons cannot use the services of privately-owned vehicles but are forced to wait for long hours at the rank before they can get transport to various destinations.
On the other hand, we believe that hitch-hikers will now have to learn to manage their time of travelling better to suit their “Special” needs instead of using “illegal” means of travelling or the popular “Ditlhogwana” phenomenon.
We believe that the intervention will finally bring to an end the mushrooming of unofficial taxi ranks operated all over different towns through stubbornness, aggressiveness and violence leading to tensions, passenger transport conflicts characterised by high-speed chases, the harassment of passengers, commuters and the general public.
We also know that totally eradicating hitch-hiking in any town, village or city will be difficult to achieve but we urge those in authority to manage this difficult exercise in a most professional and peaceful way which will not endanger the lives of ordinary citizens.