By Roane Swindon
The commuting public seems to have no choice but to resort to sighing and throwing their fists in the air when confronted with unroadworthy or unlicensed taxis and taxis breaking the rules of the road. We wonder why they can get away with skipping red traffic lights, speeding, veering in and out of lanes, and simply stopping where they please and wish we had some recourse to air our concerns and frustrations.
We know certain government departments are responsible for maintaining the law along with other stakeholders. Those responsible and thus potentially answerable to the public are:
1. Taxi Councils
2. Department of Roads and Transport’s Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) and National Traffic Police
3. The South African Police Service and/or Metropolitan Police Departments
If you have more to say tell us on our Facebook page. Let’s start the conversation and address what needs to be done to make the minibus taxi industry, safe, reliable and efficient public Transport operators.
1. Taxi Council
SANTACO is officially recognised as the taxi industry’s regulatory body and claims the accountability and professionalism of the industry is a core mandate1. In 2011 it launched a hotline members of the public could approach with complaints about taxi vehicles and drivers but the number is no longer in operation2. In 2016 it launched Operation Hlokomela to monitor the industry3 and opened an online forum to which members of the public could voice their concerns. However, as of July 2017, there were no posts4. A cursory visit to the official website shows no clear means of laying an official complaint.
However, SANTACO does field any complaints from the public regarding unroadworthy and unlicensed vehicles, and misbehaviour by drivers. Taxi commuters are encouraged not to board overburdened taxis and report the taxi if they are forced to do so, and urges taxi owners to maintain their vehicles. The council also undertakes road blocks in conjunction with law enforcement to find unroadworthy, unlicensed vehicles and drivers, and vehicles with outstanding fines.
In order to report a taxi vehicle or driver, the public may contact SANTACO by telephone on 012 321 1470, send calls, messages and WhatsApps to 073 356 8500, or contact it on Instagram (santaco_national) or Twitter (@SA_Taxis).
The National Taxi Alliance (NTA) can be approached regarding any complaints relating to the taxi industry. Complainants are encouraged to provide as much information as possible when contacting the NTA regarding an incident or situation, including the motor vehicle’s registration, its make, colour, defining characteristics such as stickers indicating a name of taxi association, and the route, time, and date. As part of its commitment to road safety, the NTA developed Ndlelanhle (‘safe travel’) to encourage behaviour on the roads that keeps commuters safe. Through the programme, when a grievance is laid upon a vehicle’s behaviour, the association which manages and/or owns the taxi will be party to a grievance and disciplinary procedure in order to address internal and external misdemeanours.
While the taxi industry follows the same Constitution as that of the country, every taxi association has a code of conduct that needs to be followed. However, if anyone feels aggrieved at unfair treatment within their individual association, the NTA is available to assist.
The NTA has a toll-free number to deal with all incidents and complaints at 0800 11 33 22. It is also available via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and through direct calls during office hours on 011 331 9706/5894.
2. RTMC and Traffic Police
The Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) aims to effectively manage South Africa’s roads by joining powers and resources of fragmented government levels. In order to achieve its mandate, it offers a call centre5 to which members of the public can field their complaints about safety issues on the roads and report issues such as unroadworthy vehicles, aggressive driver behaviour, traffic offences, and poor road conditions, as well as fraudulent activities in law enforcement and traffic management6.
Information offered to the hotline is used to advise the perpetrator of their offence. Regular offenders’ details are handed to traffic officers who meet with them to warn them their behaviour is unacceptable. The information also becomes part of a database to determine where and by whom most offences are performed in order to allow law enforcement activities to be planned7. The RTMC also accepts applications from members of the public to be Voluntary Public Traffic Observers8. Such members will have toll-free access to the call centre9.
As part of the RTMC, the national traffic police take a preventative approach to traffic offences through road blocks and joint operations with metro and national police departments. Their focus is on high visibility, roadside checkpoints, and alcohol abuse checks10.
Arrive Alive markets the hotline, called the National Traffic Call Centre (NTCC), as part of its Arrive Alive Road Safety Campaign.
Report Bad Driving Hotline: 0861 400 800
Twitter (for general queries): @TrafficRTMC
Report bad driving on Arrive Alive: https://www.arrivealive.co.za/report.aspx
Apply to become a Voluntary Public Traffic Observer here: https://www.arrivealive.co.za/callreg.aspx
3. Metro Police Departments and the SAPS
Metro police departments also take a preventative and visible approach to policing and offences. It is responsible for traffic policing and welcomes complaints about traffic issues11. However, complaints are not accepted in cases of individual taxi vehicles or drivers. Breaking a traffic law is not considered criminal as it is a Schedule 3 offence and for the offence to be punishable, it needs to be witnessed by an officer of the law. Members of the public are thus encouraged to complain in more general terms, such as where and when traffic laws are commonly broken; for example, they may call the JMPD to report taxi vehicles often driving in an emergency lane in a particular place, or when they suspect that illegal taxis are using a particular route. This information will assist the police to perform investigative operations in that stretch of road, such as road blocks. During such operations, vehicles and vehicle and driver’s licenses are inspected, and may result in penalties charged to the taxi owners for outstanding fines, and so on. Complaints can be made to the Metro Police Department or to your nearest police station.
The SAPS also welcomes complaints from members of the public, but encourages reporting of traffic offences to local and metro police departments first, as they are directly privy to local information. Similarly to metro police departments, general complaints are more helpful.
Look for the contact details of your nearest police station or metropolitan police service.
In conclusion, members of the public are welcome to complain about taxis to SANTACO, the RTMC, and police departments, but not in specific terms since traffic offences are not crimes and also need to be witnessed by police officers. To have the most effect, complaints should be about general, recurring offences in particular places and at particular times – it is these complaints that will give officers the best means to investigate and deal with offences.