By Khulekani Dumisa (@sirkhulz)
South Africa has a huge public transport problem and as such, a lot of players find themselves playing in this sector. Very often these players are unregulated and operate vehicles that are unsuitable for public transport purposes. One of the main culprits have been bakkies doubling up as taxis. This includes bakkies with or without canopies. Let us dispel the myth that it becomes safe to carry human beings in load section of a bakkie if there is a canopy. It does not. The load section does not have seat belts for one.
Bakkies doubling up as taxis have become notorious for high death tolls when they are involved in accidents. Victims are often school children as some of the taxi bakkies also operate as school buses. Apart from the loss of life, accidents are a huge financial burden (or cost) to the economy. It is with this unnecessary loss of life in mind that government acted and introduced an amendment to Regulation 250 of the National Road Traffic Act, 1996. In terms of the Regulation, as of 11 May 2017, it is illegal to carry school children and any other person for reward in the load area of a bakkie.
This is not a law without teeth and the perpetrators run the risk of being fined, having their vehicles impounded and ultimately forfeited to the state should the driver fail to stop carrying people in the back of their bakkies after being fined a couple of times.
Enforcement may be tricky as many of these transgressions happen in neighbourhoods where traffic policing is usually not present. What also can’t be ignored is that there is a gap in the public transport system that has allowed taxi bakkies to flourish. If government does not come up with a viable solution, another problem might be brewing. We unfortunately can’t keep on passing laws in order to get ourselves out of every problem.
Parents of children who are transported by taxi bakkies will in doubt be left scrambling for transport alternatives. A few months into the new Regulation, one wonders if government can claim success for this new rule. We do hope that in the interest of saving lives drivers have been complaint.
Due to the difficult nature of policing this rule, we do encourage citizens to contact nearest traffic officials should they spot a driver transporting school children in the load section of a bakkie.