Durban - South African minibus taxis are not safe, are often overloaded and their drivers are not trustworthy.
This was the result of research undertaken by the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR).
The institute recently detailed the results in a 24-page report compiled by Gareth van Onselen, its head of politics and governance.
About one-third of the 1237 respondents interviewed on topics including general taxi use and perceptions of road safety, taxi safety and taxi violence and crime, were from KwaZulu-Natal.
Van Onselen said many South Africans relied on minibus taxis, but there were profound concerns both about taxi safety and crime, as well as the condition of South African roads.
“People felt taxis are somewhat unsafe and drivers are ‘very or somewhat untrustworthy’ with regard to driving safely and responsibly,” he wrote.
The report revealed that passengers felt most drivers were somewhat aggressive. In KZN, 40% identified not obeying the rules of the road as the biggest or second-biggest problem.
The report found that 52% had seen or experienced a road accident in which a taxi driver was responsible. In KZN, 38% felt the possibility of being involved in an accident was their biggest concern. It found that 47% of passengers had witnessed or experienced taxi-related illegal acts - like paying bribes to avoid a fine - while 44% said they had witnessed or experienced a taxi driver being unable to produce a driver’s licence.
In KZN, 49% identified overloading of taxis as the biggest or second-biggest problem with taxi safety.
Asked to identify two of the biggest threats to road safety, an overwhelming 64% in the province identified drunk driving as either the biggest or second-biggest threat, followed by pot holes (31%), bad or illegal driving (28%) and speeding (26%), while 72% of all respondents said they had witnessed a taxi driver breaking the rules of the road.
SA National Taxi Council (Santaco) provincial office manager Sifiso Shangase said he would use the report to improve services, if need be. He said taxi services were improving and the people interviewed for the research could be from areas in KZN still experiencing “minor problems”.
“There is a lot of negativity surrounding minibus taxis, but when we look at the milestones we have achieved, we can see great changes,” he said, referring to the launch of the Hlokomela (“be vigilant”) campaign in March 2016.
He said through this campaign Santaco wanted to change the way the industry was perceived.
“This initiative is very successful in uMgungundlovu District Municipality, Pietermaritzburg and Durban. The taxi owners in the province are self-regulating their business. There are roadworthy checks at the taxi ranks on a continuous basis. We are working together with the Road Traffic Inspectorate to eliminate problems. We have various driver training programmes that have been lauded by other provinces,” Shangase said.
Former Phoenix and Bonela taxi driver Duds Pillay said passengers should not judge all taxi drivers the same way.
“You get people who are not trustworthy in all institutes. I have been a taxi driver for 30 years and not once have I been in front of a disciplinary committee. The new drivers are giving us a bad reputation. Some drivers are buying their licences, which cuts out driver training on ethics,” he said.
On Monday, a metro policewoman was knocked down by a minibus taxi at the intersection of Orient and Umbumbulu roads. Metro police spokesperson Parboo Sewpersad said the officer was directing traffic when the incident occurred.
In Phoenix, a woman was recently assaulted by a minibus taxi conductor when she asked for change, and in Chatsworth metro police fined several taxi drivers for overloading last month.
The eThekwini Municipality launched the Moja Cruise voluntary incentive programme in October. The programme is designed to support mini-bus taxi operations and services to commuters.