Correction: Uk’khala Kuyasiza! (You CAN complain)

What are we saying here? This statement seems to defy the common “False Humility” statement that we are so quick to blurt out whenever we are ordinarily asked how we are doing. The response typically being “Ukukhala akusizi” (I can’t complain). When in actual fact, there is a lot to complain about! I wonder sometimes if white people were the majority users of our public transport services, what exactly the overall outcome would be like. I know one thing for sure though, that taxi service providers would be on their toes! Because let’s face it-white people request managers in a FLASH, at the first whiff of injustice! And something would be done in an instance. Now don’t get me wrong, my friend, this is not an issue of colour or race, this is simply a matter of correct methods of action!

We simply need to voice out our grievances and concerns! From the unroadworthy minibus taxis and scholar transport vehicles; to irresponsible taxi driver behaviour on roads; to the commuter being effected by conflict within the taxi industry; to taxi drivers driving recklessly, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, not wearing seat belts and driving on the pavements or against on-coming traffic-to name basic concerns. So who do we run to?

I was sitting in the office one day and I heard somebody say “the people need somebody to run to. Because, as users, we face public transport issues every day!” I couldn’t help but nod in agreement to this accurate statement. Because too many times we have often found ourselves so afraid to speak up; that we bite our tongues and quietly accept certain injustices. Sometimes even when our very lives are put at risk! But this can’t be so, because we are not being done any favours here. We are rendering a service! And if the service provided doesn’t add up as promised, something must be done. And nothing will be done unless matters are addressed.

Who then deals with these matters? And what can/has been done?

On the 13 May a massive wave of taxi vehicle inspections took charge on South African roads, which saw the clamping down on a large number of minibus taxis taking place, this initiative is called “Operation ke molao” which is “It is the law” implemented by the Department of Public Safety and Community Safety.

Drivers were left frustrated as unroadworthy vehicles were pulled off the roads.

I had an interview with Thapelo Moiloa around that time, who is the spokesman of the Department of Community Safety, talking about Operation ke Molao. He told us that over 903 citations were issued to drivers who were driving without a driver’s license, many who were caught driving on the yellow lanes and of course those who were driving unroadworthy vehicles-leading to the impounding of over one hundred and fifty vehicles!

“Those vehicles can only be back on the road once they’ve paid the fines and vehicle defects have been fixed after they have been taken through roadworthy tests” said a cool mannered Moiloa. Needless to say, this rather militant approach to injustice struck an undeniable fear in not only taxi drivers but the owners too. Operation ke Molao is so far the most effective action plan implemented against injustices in public transport services. This all as a result of a number calls received from scared commuters driving in taxis who often feared for their lives and it was the authority’s duty to get all unroadworthy taxis off the road. And that they did! Why? Because “Kuyasiza Ukukhala!” (It pays to voice your complaint!)

It was encouraging to hear that our concerns do not need to go through long and inconvenient processes in order for them to be heard or corrected. “One can simply take down the registration plates of the vehicle, take down the name of the driver (if possible) and anonymously report this information to law enforcement agencies.” Moiloa continued.

The Department of Community Safety even goes as far as dispatching undercover agents to launch sting operations, disguised as passengers themselves, in order to get the full experience of lawlessness on the roads. The unjust matters are then investigated and action is taken. Fines are issued and in some cases, drivers could be arrested.

Authorities are readily available for us to take full advantage of instead of typically folding our arms and accepting the hand dealt to us. In fact, MECs for Community Safety, Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane, and Roads and Transport, Ismail Vadi, emphasized that the Gauteng provincial government believes that a bold, forward-looking and constructive approach is needed to resolving issues affecting the taxi industry.

Furthermore, the MECs recently held a meeting with the leadership of taxi associations and identified an 8-point plan that will serve as the basis of future engagements with the taxi industry.

The new plan relates to: 

  • The issuing of replacement licenses for 22-seater vehicles;
  • Fast-tracking of long-standing licensing applications that meet compliance requirements;
  • Processing of new Operating License applications that are on hold or pending in different regions and that are based on Integrated Transport Plans of municipalities;
  • Renewal of motor vehicle license discs and payment of outstanding motor vehicle license fees by selected taxi operators;
  • Promoting roadworthiness of minibus taxis and scholar transport vehicles;
  • Supporting the road safety campaign led by the Department of Community Safety and promoting more responsible taxi driver behaviour on roads;
  • Addressing the unacceptable forms of violent conflict within the taxi industry; and
  • Promoting meaningful economic empowerment programmes within the taxi industry linked to broader transport value-chain across different regions through formally registered corporate entities.

MEC Nkosi-Malobane continued to say that Operation “Ke Molao” will continue in so far as it relates to taxi drivers driving recklessly, and driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs, not wearing seat belts and driving on the pavements or against on-coming traffic.

“For these traffic violations law enforcement is non-negotiable and Operation Ke Molao will continue, but a grace period has been given to operators to fix their vehicles and pay outstanding traffic fines,” said MEC Nkosi-Malobane.

As we can see, we have a voice. Too often drivers treat us commuters as subjects rather than paying customers. And this offence is easy to get away with if we continue to remain silent!

Look at the mountains that were moved after authorities said to have received many complaints from families who had lost their loved ones on the road. Complaints varied from passengers, motorists and community members.

We need to develop an “let me see your manager attitude!” it will save us a lot of grief. I personally have a few concerns of my own that I would like to air-out, how about you? “Khipa iskhalo sakho, baba!” (Let your voice be heard).


WRITTEN: LEHLOHONOLO RAMOSOLO

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