Early this week, members of the Dolphin Coast Taxi Association again stopped and harassed corporate bakkie drivers transporting employees to work, infuriating North Coast business owners.
On Monday morning, reports of such incidents began to surface, and they intensified on Tuesday, with some drivers alleging they were stopped at gunpoint and their employees were ordered off the bakkies.
The Courier spoke with the proprietor of a construction company who stated that two of her Shakaskraal-based chauffeurs are responsible for transporting 10 coworkers to and from various work sites throughout the day.
She stated that the use of bakkies for conveyance is vital to their operations because it saves both time and money.
Company transport drivers said personnel were ordered off the bakkies at gunpoint.
If the intimidation persists, she may be compelled to place her employees on temporary unpaid leave until the threats are resolved and substitute them with workers who can perform their duties without the complications caused by taxi interference.
“I will not fight against this. The transportation company owners must be aware that if they continue their actions, employment will be lost and the Dolphin Coast economy will suffer.”
Another North Coast resident who shared a message on a WhatsApp group informing residents about the situation in Shakaskraal reported receiving a phone call from a putative taxi owner warning her not to interfere with their business. The fact that the caller knew her name and address horrified her.
Siyabonga Ntombela, spokesperson for the taxi association, did not deny that members were halting bakkies transporting employees.
“The manner in which this is managed may not be appropriate, but it is the result of frustration over the dearth of law enforcement regarding the use of appropriate vehicles for passenger transport. We will not cease until the authorities do something about these bakkies.”
According to him, the Department of Transport informed them that bakkies may transport no more than five persons in the back and that they must be licensed to do so.
However, they do not observe this law being enforced.
He claims that the impact on their business stems from the illegal practice of some chauffeurs charging their coworkers for transportation.
Ntombela stated that nothing has changed since the formation of a transport committee last year to resolve similar incidents of taxi intimidation.
Cobus Oelofse, the chief executive officer of the iLembe Chamber of Commerce, acknowledged an influx of complaints from affected businesses and emphasized the significance of identifying appropriate strategies to prevent disruptions in an already difficult local economic environment.
He exhorted business owners to become conversant with the passenger transport regulations of the KZN Department of Transport and to comply with them, and he urged law enforcement agencies and transport authorities to effectively enforce the regulations.
In addition, he urged taxi proprietors and their organizations to guarantee compliance with the law. Oelofse stated that upholding and consistently enforcing the law is essential for the economic prosperity of the region.
Regulation 247 of the National Road Traffic Act states that “no person shall transport school children or other individuals for compensation in the cargo compartment of a motor vehicle, unless the vehicle complies with the National Land Transportation Act.”
Specific safety requirements, such as the minimum height of protective railings on vehicles for seated and standing passengers, are also stipulated by the regulations.
Contrary to popular belief, there are no restrictions on the number of occupants permitted, so long as Regulation 247 is complied with and the vehicle’s gross weight limit is not exceeded.