The local taxi association and independent cab drivers met recently to head off a standoff over routes and operating terms.
Local taxi association Uncedo’s Port Alfred branch met with independent transport operators to discuss routes and terms of operation last week. This comes after Uncedo called a meeting with private transport operators to discuss the way they conduct their operations within the Ndlambe area. Uncedo originally set a deadline of 1 March for them to comply with local and provincial transport regulations. Meanwhile the Department of Transport has emphasised that law enforcement should be left to mandated agencies.
In a letter sent to independent transport operators earlier this month, the Ndlambe branch of Uncedo taxi association said unregistered cab operators in Ndlambe had until March to ensure their vehicles are registered should they wish to continue operating in the area. The call followed a meeting with cab operators to discuss what the association deemed non-compliance to public transport legislation.
Two taxi associations operate within the Ndlambe municipal area: Uncedo, which is centred around Port Alfred and Bathurst and has strong links with Makhanda; and Border Alliance Taxi Association (Bata) which mostly operates in Kenton and ALexandria.
Chairperson of Uncedo’s Port Alfred branch, Mxolisi Kiti, told Talk of the Town it was concerning that only one cab operator among the 20 operating in the area was registered with the province’s transport department. “We’ve done our research and only one vehicle is registered as a cab, while more than 20 vehicles are operating as cabs in town,” he said.
In the local context, “cab” means a transport on demand service provided by individual private operators whom clients call directly for a once-off trip from A to B.
Kiti said they had no problem with cab operators who were registered with the Department of Transport and were legitimately operating as cab. “If they register with the department of transport and pay the licence then we have no problem with it.”
Uncedo believes it’s unfair that some cab drivers avoid the paperwork and the expense that goes with it. Adding insult to injury, they feel, is that some cab drivers are interfering with taxi operators’ livelihoods by picking up passengers on their routes.
“Being a cab operator is not merely going to buy a car and then you can call yourself a cab,” Kiti said. “You have to register your vehicle first.
“These unregistered cab operators are using taxi routes to pick up passengers which is unacceptable,” Kiti said. “Even now you can go up Runeli drive and see our taxis standing: they are empty and waiting for passengers – but meantime they have been taken by the cab drivers.”
Uncedo Taxi Association has around 180 members who pay a once-off joining fee of R10 000. This ensures them allocation to particular routes; assistance with administrative matters including the necessary licensing and registrations.
“If you look at the taxis of our members, you will see four discs displayed,” the association’s deputy chairman, Ayanda Zoli said. “That is for the safety of our passengers.”
Zoli urged passengers to check that any taxi or cab they board displays the following: an operating licence, professional driving permit, vehicle licence disk and a passenger liability disk.
Zoli said the association assists new members with these practical and administrative matters. Along with the joining fee, there are ongoing rank charges; however, all of these, Kiti says, enable the association to ensure a safe environment for passengers and fair competition for operators.
Transport operators who would like to join Uncedo need to write a letter of interest to the association and bring all the documentation related to vehicle ownership, along with their ID document.
The taxi association’s main grievance is that cab drivers sometimes pick up people on assigned taxi routes. “They should stay at home and wait for a cab request and only pick up and drop off that person at a specific point. Instead of doing that, they are now picking up passengers on the road,” said Kiti.
Asked if they were not taking on a role beyond their mandate in calling out the cab drivers, Zoli said, “These are our brothers and sisters, we just want to talk. We didn’t want to involve the department of transport because they would not negotiate but impound cars [that are not registered],” he said.
Zoli confirmed on Wednesday afternoon that the Uncedo executive and the independent operators would be meeting today (Thursday February 16) to iron out their differences.
This is a fast-developing story and the Eastern Cape Department of Transport’s comment was in response to Uncedo’s previous stance, which was that independent operators must comply by March 1 2023.
At that time, the DoT spokesperson, Unathi Bhinqose said, “Law enforcement should be left to law enforcement officials and not anyone else. We do not want to see people enforcing what they believe is the law. It may not necessarily be the case in some instances and we do not want people taking law unto themselves … let our law enforcement agencies execute their jobs.”