The Namibian (Windhoek)

6 May 2014

Namibia: City Police Warn Taxi Union Over Violent Strike

CITY Police Chief Abraham Kanime said his officers will be on alert to ensure that taxi drivers do not carry out their threats of engaging in violence they made last week.

Kanime condemned the Namibia Transport and Taxi Union (NTTU) for threatening violence, saying they should not think that it is above the law.

"No one has the right to threaten Government in this manner. This is a democratic country but things should be done in an orderly manner. Threatening violence will not take us anywhere," he said.

NTTU threatened a violent strike on 16 June this year should the National Assembly not rethink on its decision on reduce the high traffic fines.

In a statement, the NTTU's president, Werner Januarie, warned "that this upcoming strike will not be a peaceful one" because the NA, in its response to the union's 2013 petition, did not favour reducing the traffic fines.

During the hearing conducted by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs, which took place from 4-8 November 2013, several representatives from various ministries, taxi unions, government agencies and organisations were consulted on the issue.

Januarie accused all the institutions that took part in the hearing for failing to sympathise with taxi drivers and looking at their own interests instead.

"Namfisa, a financial authority which deals with insurance, makes no mention of their willingness to provide our members or non-members with benefits such as accident cover, pensions and medical aid which is part of their jurisdiction," he stated.

The union is also irked by the fact that the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare does not recognise them as a legally registered organisation with the Office of the Labour Commissioner.

During the consultations, Nanso also said students do not feel safe in taxis, citing incidents of robberies in taxis, cellphones and wallets and generally fearing for their lives as a result of the recklessness of taxi drivers.

"Even if we don't condone robberies, this is not an issue which we have raised or that formed part of our petition. Nanso has no experience when it comes to the operation of taxis," an angry Januarie said.

He pointed out that some of the institutions agreed that the nature of the sub-standard road infrastructure is the highest contributor of traffic offences, including the Minister of Works and Transport Erkki Nghimtina's acknowledgment that the fines increased the level of corruption as drivers are tempted to pay bribes to money-hungry police officers.

"Further, Nghimtina and the Minister of Justice Utoni Nujoma agreed that the poor and outdated road infrastructure is the biggest contributor to the abnormal nature of traffic flow, including few taxi ranks and loading off zones, which now gives us a clear indication that government agrees that it is not drivers' fault when they commit some of these traffic offences but they do so by default in lieu of proper road infrastructure," he said.

He urged the City of Windhoek against bringing uniforms for taxi drivers and for the City to drop their renewed call of acquiring the 800 Quantum minibuses.

"Government should also stop the call that they want to bring in a law requiring taxi drivers to pay tax, we are already crying over this issue of traffic fines - doesn't this government have mercy?" he asked.

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