Rail against taxi madness by gearing up transport

This week I visited Cape Town as part of a media entourage invited by the Robben Island Museum (RIM) management

This week I visited Cape Town as part of a media entourage invited by the Robben Island Museum (RIM) management

The aim of the trip was to look at the progress the RIM has made in becoming, firstly, a major tourist attraction as well as a key component of the drive to nurture our national heritage.

As the gods would have it, the Cape of Storms was in its element and there were no cruises to the Island for the two days we were in Cape Town.

So we visited other components of the RIM, including the University of Western Cape Robben Island archives.

These archives contain photographs, artefacts, video recordings, tapes and historical documents that tell the story of how people and organisations risked their lives to record the atrocities of the then apartheid regime.

They also capture the spirit of resistance that drove the oppressed masses to take to the streets, protesting against the inhuman system.

It was during one of these informative excursions organised by the ever-bubbly RIM media director, Shalo Mbatha, that I got to engage our driver.

I shall call him Hennie because that is what everyone, including himself, called him.

Hennie lives in Bishop Lavis, one of Cape Town's southwestern suburbs.

He travels to work by train. This costs him about R169 a month. He told me that driving his car to work would probably cost him thrice what he pays for the train fare.

We then got talking about how efficient the Cape Town train system was. To prove his point Hennie showed me an SMS he had received from Metrorail to say that the train he normally catches in the morning would be delayed. This was apparently because of a bomb scare.

A few minutes later Hennie had received another text message saying the trains were moving smoothly. He arrived at work on time.

This led me to think about good old Johannesburg and all that is happening in the taxi industry.

Passengers are caught in the crossfire as the taxi associations fight over routes. Over the past few weeks the taxi wars have flared up again, leaving a number of people dead in their wake.

What really bugs me is that taxi owners have become a law unto themselves.

Meanwhile they are whingeing about not being given subsidies by the government.

Frankly speaking I think the taxi industry must be treated like the private business it is.

Taxi owners must be made to understand they are in this business to provide quality service. And if they fail to do so they will go down like any other business.

Unfortunately, the taxi owners are having their cake and eating it. This is because they do not have competition in terms of an efficient public transport system.

Unlike in Cape Town, Johannesburg's train system leaves much to be desired.

The reality is unless the government improves the public transport system we will continue to have the taxi industry running roughshod over everyone and being a law unto themselves. In the process it is the commuters who suffer.