'Joburg metro cops treat taximen like sworn enemies'

Taxi associations do not believe that metro cops launched Operation Nomakanjani against unruly motorists.

Taxi associations do not believe that metro cops launched Operation Nomakanjani against unruly motorists.

They believe the cops are actually targeting them in revenge for past disputes. A spokesperson of a Soweto taxi association says it's true that some taxi drivers do not obey the rules of the road.

They do not stop when they are supposed to; they speed; overload passengers so much that they cannot use the minibus mirrors; and they offload passengers in the middle of the road.

He claims Metrobus is guilty of the same offences. Metro cops allegedly do not check the buses' brake lights and tyres. If a bus breaks down, the driver is not fined if he fails to display a driehoek (emergency triangle). But taxis are fined for all these misdemeanours.

"This is unfair," says JM. "Buses make way for each other and cause obstructions, especially at peak hour around JG Strydom (Helen Joseph Hospital). I challenge Nomakanjani to visit the area.

"Buses do not stick to their routes. If a taxi driver gets a load, say to Vereeniging during off-peak hours, he will be stopped and fined. His minibus may also be impounded.

"It is a risk to take a funeral party to another township if you are not licensed to be on that route. The cops do not care, they fine you if they catch you."

JM says metro buses go anywhere, anytime like taxis used to before metro cops stopped that. The buses are not stopped, and if they are, they aren't impounded.

He says cops treat taxi drivers as though they are the enemy.

The cops and the taximen do not meet to exchange ideas, let alone to iron out differences, "even if we are their main business".

"People think we are corrupt but that is not true.

"In Pretoria, the cops are friendly and treat taxi drivers and everyone with respect. Not in Johannesburg."

JM said the government hates their skorokoros but the skorokoros are better than in the rest of Africa where the taxis are decrepit.

The new taxi designs limit the number of passengers. Taxi owners add more seats and then take the minibus to a weighbridge for a roadworthy certificate.

The Boardpolice (formerly Transvaal Provincial Administration) allegedly refuse to recognise these certificates. They impound the taxis even when they are empty.

"There is too much bribery because we are penalised for everything. No one knows what is allowed and what is wrong anymore."

He says the government is busy introducing the Bus Rapid Transit all over the country without consulting the taxi industry.

"2010 is only 29 days. We are not willing to dump our faithful passengers for football tourists just for a short-term gain."

I ask JM why the drivers break the rules all the time. He shrugs and then reluctantly agrees that that was true.