School taxis too often dangerous, overloaded wrecks

A reader called to tell me that I was not attending to the real issues that affect the taxi business.

A reader called to tell me that I was not attending to the real issues that affect the taxi business.

I spoke about the reader's complaint to a taximan whom I know. He shocked me by confirming the tale, and even added more gruesome details. Maybe he was happy to do this because it also affects his own children.

The school transport system is in a shambles. It is not regulated and anyone can style himself a driver. Apparently all you need is a minibus that moves.

The reader, let's call him Simon, told me that his little girl attends a nursery school in Eastgate. The child has to be ready for a 6.30am pickup, but she only arrives at school at 8am. The taxi, a microbus that is supposed to carry only 14 passengers, packs in 22 children.

Occasionally there are 30 children, some in the boot. The owner makes R7000 a month. I wonder if the children will grow properly when their little insides are squashed daily like this.

Simon says that his little daughter complains that the older children take her pocket money before she reaches school. If she does not have money she gets a slap.

The taxi driver (TD) says many people who were retrenched bought old, old vehicles and joined the school run. The drivers usually do not have driving licences, never mind public transport licences.

TD said the drivers usually add four or five children, unknown to the owner, to make a little on the side. The drivers also collect nightshift workers from shops that are open late. They get about four hours of sleep, hardly wash, change clothes or brush their teeth.

He said the funny thing is that these drivers do not like children and ill-treat them. During the day, the drivers take on short trips and do not rest.

TD said his children were refused transport when he complained that the minibus was a wreck. When he went to the owner, he was shocked to discover that his two children were not on the official list.

He said the owner had three other scrap-heap combis in his yard that serviced other schools.

He also discovered that the owner had been dropped by a taxi association because he had an umkokotelo (dodgy) driving licence.

I understand that the police are taking a good look at these killer vehicles, but TD said that children are by nature very secretive and will duck rather than let the police do a proper head count.

I suppose there are good owners and drivers somewhere out there, but they will die because of the sins of the others.

I am shocked that we allow these vultures to feast on our children.

It is time for parents and teachers to stand up and weed out these chancers.

We must stop accepting bad service and start asserting our rights.

That is the right thing to do.