The Namibia Transport and Taxi Union (NTTU) is at it again, this time calling for taxi owners to pay traffic fines for reckless driving and other road misdemeanors instead of the taxi drivers who would have been caught breaking the law.
In a letter addressed to several government officials, NTTU president, Werner Januarie, demanded that road traffic fines be issued to taxi owners instead of the current practice in which drivers are personally liable for any fines issued during their course of work.
“The decision to issue traffic fines to taxi drivers must be reversed forthwith without delay, failure of which we will be forced to take unspecified action,” Januarie said.
He argued that taxi drivers are forced to speed or commit other road offences because of the pressure put on them by their employers.
“Taxi owners force their employees to meet unreasonable targets, for example, ordering drivers to cash in from N$450 to N$700 a day. This in turn causes drivers to speed and drive recklessly, and as a result, the drivers….receive fines which we are convinced are unconstitutional and unlawful.”
The union called for a meeting with relevant stakeholders, including the ministries of works, safety and security, urban and rural development as well as justice, the City of Windhoek, the Attorney General, Albert Kawana, and the taxi owners to discuss the way forward.
Januarie told the Windhoek Observer that if their concerns are not addressed, the union and its members will use various means to carry their message across until they receive a positive response.
“We will carry out peaceful demonstrations, make noise through the media as well as social media and so forth,” the union leader said, adding that their demands are in line with the Transportation Act 74 of 1977 under the section which deals with taxi permit conditions.
According to a clause contained in the Act, the holder of a road carrier permit, to which this relates, shall obey all rules of the road and adhere to the speed limit (and by extension holders of such permits must ensure their drivers adhere to this condition).
Januarie said since handing over the letter to the different ministries, they have only received acknowledgement from the works minister, John Mutorwa, who instructed the transportation board to look into the issue.
“Mutorwa is taking this very seriously. We want relief for the drivers in this regard. We are underpaid, but made to pay traffic fines,” Januarie said.
Edward Kalembe, president of rival union, the Namibia Public Passenger Transport Association, said drivers are not being realistic in their demands.
“If a driver is given a ticket because a car is not road worthy then the driver should not pay the fine, but if the ticket is specifically for reckless driving, then the driver should pay. It is not the owner of the car who tells the driver to be reckless,” Kalembe said.
Namibia Bus and Taxi Association chairperson, Vespa Muunda, acknowledged that taxi owners were creating a problem by asking for unreasonable daily targets from their drivers.
He, however, said that is no excuse for taxi drivers to commit traffic offences.
“The owner does not drive a taxi, he employs a person to drive his taxi thus if the person drives recklessly and overtakes where he should not then that is the driver’s problem,” Muunda said.
He said taxi owners should only pay for fines related to the car.
Assistant Superintendent in the Department of City Police and Emergency, Hilma Mpuka, said the police cannot compromise the law to suit individuals.
“The law applies to everyone on the road whether a taxi or a private person. By compromising the law to please a taxi driver means putting other road users’ lives at risk, and that cannot be possible at all, because there are various reasons why laws are put in place and those reasons cannot be negotiated.
“I am therefore urging all road users whether taxi drivers or private drivers to comply with road traffic regulations at all times,” Mpuka said
The demand by the union comes a week after the Ministry of Works and Transport approved a 20 percent increase in taxi and bus fares.