Cape Town - The sexual harassment and assault women face while in taxis has to come to an end, a rape counsellor said at the launch of the Safe Rides initiative on Thursday.
The initiative launched by Sonke Gender Justice and the Mosaic Training, Service and Healing Centre for Women in partnership with the South African National Taxi Association (Santaco) and the Cape Amalgamated Taxi Association (Cata), seeks to end the abuse female passengers experience. At least two incidents of rape in taxis had been reported this month, Mosaic counsellor Zoleka Mali said. Both incidents took place in Philippi, she said.
The initiative is focused on “amaphela” taxis, smaller vehicles like Toyota Avanzas or Cressidas, but also encompasses minibus taxis. “Both women raped were in their thirties; one was returning home from church when she was raped and the other woman was on her way to work. These are separate rape incidents and we need to put a stop to it.”
The Safe Rides Campaign is aimed at addressing harassment and sexual violence against passengers by taxi drivers and queue marshals in South Africa.
Santaco president Philip Taaibosch said the organisation had more than 550 000 drivers rendering transport services to more than 15.6 million commuters daily. He said as part of the business it was important that passengers feel safe inside a taxi. “Today I stand before you labelled as a rapist because of those drivers who come into our industry with no purpose, those who taint our names by raping, molesting and disrespecting women and children passengers.
“We need to take back our respect. When we see or hear such incidents don’t turn a blind eye, report it to the police or apprehend the person and take them to the police station. We should be responsible citizens.” Mali said she hoped this campaign would stop rape in taxis.
“This is an ongoing problem and we are hoping that this launch will bring about change and encourage owners to deal with their drivers.”
Two commuters, Nomvuyiseko Filita and Phumla Mdlulwa, said they feared travelling by taxi. “We have heard a lot of horror stories. Just last week we read about a woman who was almost raped by a taxi driver. We don’t know how safe we are because such things happen and if we had cars of our own maybe we wouldn’t even want to use taxis,” said Filita.
Mdlulwa said: “I have to first check if there is another female passenger and whether windows are tinted. Amaphela taxis are even riskier; you can get on wanting to go to one place and the driver drops you at another.”