‘There is no way to justify reckless driving’

The taxi situation has remained an everlasting debate among many. While some agree that Hout Bay will do just fine without taxis, others think that despite their negligence, they are a necessity.

Several residents of Hout Bay residents say they feel let down by the City of Cape Town which they have accused of failing to heed repeated calls to rein in errant taxi drivers.

Earlier this year, five taxi drivers were gunned down in bloody feuding over route permits (“Taxi violence continues in Hout Bay”, Sentinel, Friday April 5). 

But it’s not just the unpredictable outbreaks of taxi violence that have many in Hout Bay on edge, it’s the experience of sharing the road with drivers who carry a minibus full of passengers and yet frequently flout traffic laws with seeming impunity.

Residents say repeated calls on the authorities to act against errant taxi drives are ignored.

This comes after a number of locals complained to government officials, but say nothing has changed. 

A  chartered accountant and partner of a Cape Town firm, who has asked to remain anonymous, said he is seriously considering emigrating after living in Hout Bay for 18 years. 

“We were told that Hout Bay was the microcosm of South Africa and that it would be the perfect test case of how the rich and the poor could live together. If this is true, then I must admit that I have to consider taking my family elsewhere,” he told Sentinel News. 

“The taxi situation and their complete disregard for the law, together with their aggressive manner on the roads, certainly adds another weight on the scale tipping in favour of us leaving SA.”

“It has become so much better since the City stepped in and banned them from the area, but if this ban is not mad permanent then you can be 100% sure that they will return to their old habits, in fact those that are in Hout Bay already have.”

Claudia Pappada is one of many residents who have posted on Facebook about their harrowing experiences with taxis on Facebook. 

On Tuesday June 4, she said: “Just had the most horrific experience. Witnessed a young schoolboy being knocked over by a taxi at pedestrian crossing Kronendal School…  Still waiting for ambulance… he is lying in the road… please help!”

 Kirstie Lisle said she was cut off by a taxi at 7am on Tuesday June 11 while dropping her daughter off at school. 

“We were centimetres away from being driven off the road, and I swerved and did an emergency stop. Something needs to be done at this intersection before something terrible happens. 

“I cannot understand why all the voices on this have been ignored and all requests for help turned down by the City of Cape Town. 

“It’s a very busy intersection at drop off in the morning and pick up in the afternoon. Not forgetting, there is a vet practise opposite, so on many occasions there are people desperate to turn right and bring their sick animals to the vet. I am fuming.”

The taxi situation has remained an everlasting debate amongst many.While some agree that say Hout Bay would do just fine without taxis, others think that despite their negligence, feel they are a necessity. 

The anonymous accountant previously mentioned said Hout Bay is currently proving that it can function without taxi’s. “We don’t need the taxi’s. Some may complain that there are none, well they need to be reminded that it is a privilege to live in Hout Bay and if you have to be slightly inconvenienced to walk to a bus stop then either put up with the terrible two minute inconvenience or go live somewhere else. The rest of us don’t want these murderous thugs driving on our roads.”

Valerie Ross, a former real estate agent is tired of everyone complaining about the same thing. 

“We just have to drive with great caution and keep ourselves safe. Taxis are totally necessary to get thousands of workers to and from work in the quickest possible time.”

Mayoral committee member for safety and security, JP Smith, said 86 000 taxi-related fines had been issued and 2 546 taxis impounded across the city in the year ending March. And 4 276 taxi drivers had been arrested on various charges from July 2018 to March 2019.

“There are about 290 operational traffic officers that are deployed within the City of Cape Town. These officers are deployed into three shifts that polices a vehicle population in excess of 1.2 million vehicles. This means that there is a ratio of more than 4 000 vehicles per officer that needs to be policed on a daily basis.”

It was evident, however, that enforcement did not change the taxi drivers’ driving behaviour, he said.

“This is mainly because the taxis don’t pay their fines, forcing us to pursue them through our warrant section to find the ones with outstanding warrants of arrest. We arrest these and then they pay the fines and contempt of court fines, but this still does not amend their behaviour.

“We are doing ongoing enforcement focusing on minibus taxis as well as other public transport and private transport vehicles at the various hotspots.”

But he said there were “hundreds of hot spots” and “simply not nearly enough traffic staff!”

So the focus, he said, had moved to impoundments.

“We can currently only impound if the vehicles are operating without an operating licence or off their designated route.”

Besuthu Ndungane, a spokesman for the Congress of Democratic Taxi Association (CODETA) said the City needed to deploy more traffic officers on the roads to clamp down on bad driving by taxi drivers.

“There is no way to justify reckless driving, but if there were enough officials on the road, there would be less complications,” he said.

“As long as the City’s law enforcement fails civilians and taxi drivers, such incidents will continue. As an association, we encourage safe driving, and we are always acting in the best interests of the passengers.”

The Cape Amalgamated Taxi Association (CATA), which also services the Hout Bay area, could not be reached for comments, despite numerous attempts to do so.

Mr Smith said changes to the law were needed for more effective enforcement.

“We have worked with the provincial government to complete the new Provincial Traffic Act, which we hope will change the situation dramatically on the ground, as it will allow us to impound public transport vehicles, including minibus taxis, for regular traffic offences instead of issuing fines, which have limited impact on their conduct,” he said. “The provincial government has indicated that this act will be promulgated over the next few months.”