Windhoek — Up to 6 000 registered taxis in Windhoek have become easy targets for use as get-away vehicles or transporters of criminals and their stolen goods.
The latest reported incident was the break-in at the house of former Member of Parliament, Nora Schimming-Chase, where a taxi with the registration code V68 was used to transport the criminals and their stolen goods over the weekend.
Chief of the City Police, Abraham Kanime, admitted that taxis have been used as get-away vehicles for criminals for most reported criminal activities in Windhoek.
"There are a few cases where the driver is the owner of the taxi, but mostly the drivers - not the owners - are involved in crime," explained Kanime.
Some taxi drivers drop off thieves and robbers in the affluent suburbs to look for their next target, according to Kanime. He says drivers are not afraid to use the vehicles, because they (vehicles) do not belong to them and also because they are easily persuaded by friends, with promises of a good payday compared to their measly wages that average N$1400 per month.
The City Police Chief declined to give details of the owner and driver of the taxi that was involved in the Schimming-Chase housebreaking, however he assured New Era that a database is available to Nampol for investigations.
Nampol's Khomas Region Deputy Commissioner, Sylvanus Nghishindimbwa, confirmed that the driver who worked for the owner of the V68 taxi was one of the arrested suspects in the housebreaking case.
"Owners do not usually know where their cars are until they learn that the car is at the police station," he added.
He advised the owners to have more control over their taxis and to demand that the driver return the vehicle at a stipulated time to avoid unnecessary trouble.
"The owners must control their drivers because they (owners) are the ones who suffer when their vehicles are impounded. In this case, the police can keep the vehicle until the case is finalized," said to Nghishindimbwa.
"There is no restriction on the movements of taxis, they drive throughout the night as they wish," said Nghishindimbwa, adding that police cannot restrict the freedom of movement of vehicles.
Furthermore, Kanime said the large registration numbers make it easy for police to identify and detect taxis when involved in criminal activities. "The registration numbers are not to control taxis but to easily trace them," he said.
The deputy commissioner advised passengers to take precautions when taking a taxi by writing down the registration identification number and to avail it to the police in case a crime occurs. However, Nghishindimbwa was quick to point out that not all taxi drivers are criminals.
"Some drivers become victims of passengers when they are held at gunpoint and robbed," he said.
Kanime also advised members of the public to be on the lookout for suspicious taxis that happen to be in their neighborhoods and to immediately contact the City Police at 302 302 to provide the registration number.
He confirmed that some taxi drivers use fraudulent registration numbers to carry out criminal activities, but described that as a small problem since the numbers are easily traceable.
Deputy Chief of the City Police, Adam Eiseb, confirmed that 6 492 registration certificates have been issued in accordance with the municipal bylaws for buses, sedan vehicles and combies.
"This is for any vehicle transporting passengers, excluding radio taxis and shuttles," he said.
He estimated that up to 6 000 taxis could be roaming the streets of Windhoek.
President of the Namibia Bus and Taxis Association (Nabta), Magnus Nangombe reiterated that the owners of taxis and not their employees, are registered members of Nabta.