New Era (Windhoek)

Namibia: Cops Avert Potential Taxi Trouble

Windhoek — The police diffused a potentially explosive situation between members of the Namibia Bus and Taxi Association (Nabta) and the breakaway faction - the Namibia Public Passenger Transport Association (NPPTA) - at Rhino Park on Sunday.

Rival groups nearly came to blows at a bus terminal on Sunday at Rhino Park following disputes over who is authorized to operate from that terminal.

The NPPTA claims that it represents the majority of operators and should therefore be allowed to operate from the Rhino Park terminal, while Nabta maintains that it is the only recognized transport organization and the rival group has no business operating from Rhino Park.

Uapingena Karuaera, the interim chairperson of NPPTA, said Nabta members broke office doors to remove trailers that belonged to NPPTA members. He said his members decided to block all entry and exit points to the Rhino Park terminal, leading to tempers flaring. The police had to intervene to prevent the situation from turning violent.

Karuaera said the NPPTA is a legitimate association registered with the Ministry of Trade and Industry and also has the blessings of police inspectors Ndeitunga and Hifindaka, with whom he held meetings in October to introduce the newly formed group.

The former Nabta office administrator said he wrote a letter to Puma Energy, which owns the complex, asking to operate from the Rhino Park complex but has not yet received an answer. He said the NPPTA wants to move into the office space now occupied by its rival organization, because they are in the majority while Nabta only has two officers.

Karuaera disclosed that they also wrote a letter to the Minister of Works and Transport at the end of last year to inform him of their operations but did not get any response either. Vespa Muunda, Nabta national secretary, says the new group wants them to vacate their offices, which is not going to happen.

He said the NPPTA is trying to sabotage all activities by blocking entry to the terminal so that Puma Energy is forced to end its relationship with Nabta. Muunda said they were to receive new taxi lamps from a supplier and needed space to store the lamps, but Karuaera who had the keys to the office did not want to give back the keys.

Karuaera and company apparently wanted to block all entrances and exits to the Rhino Park terminal so that the truck carrying the new lamps and which was supposed to arrive on Sunday or yesterday could not make the delivery.

Muunda further said the supplier had to break the door after it became apparent that Karuaera would not hand over the keys. The Nabta national secretary refuted claims that the NPPTA had more members and said even if it were the case, they had no right to lay claim to Nabta property.

"We never provoked anyone," he said, alleging that NPPTA members wanted to provoke physical confrontation, which they avoided. A staff member of Puma who did not want his name mentioned said that they were aware of the incident, but added that he did not want to comment further since a case of breaking and entering is still being investigated.

The NPPTA was formed late last year by a powerful coterie of disgruntled transport operators. Members of the new splinter group have already set a date for a congress slated for next March to elect a new leadership.

According to a press statement by NPPTA, 18 members from 11 regions held a meeting on June 11 last year where they agreed to form a new association for buses and taxis, which has already been registered with the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

Karuaera was suspended last year as the office administrator of Nabta. Pendapala Nakathingo and Vespa Muunda, chief administration and executive officer, Ankambo Emmanuel and Elvis Kauesa, were allegedly elected at the 2005 congress through 'fraudulent means' because when they were asked to provide relevant information including membership to Nabta, they refused to do so.

This led to their expulsion from Nabta, but since then the northern leaders have been involved in a tug of war with the association.

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