Namibia: Geingob Makes U-Turn On Taxi Union Meeting

PRESIDENT Hage Geingob cancelled a scheduled meeting with the Namibia Transport and Taxi Union leadership after union leader Werner Januarie said taxi drivers had lost faith in his presidency.

Geingob, who was supposed to meet the union on 19 March, alternatively asked the works ministry to deal with the unresolved issue within that sector.

According to a letter to Januarie issued in March by the executive director in the president's private office, Moses Pakote, Januarie made a remark that irked Geingob and therefore could no longer be granted a meeting with the president.

The remark by Januarie in a statement seen by The Namibian reads: "I on behalf of taxi drivers, make this clarion call to the president to come address his people thereby to restore hope in his people. Taxi drivers, as well as many citizens of our country, have totally lost hope, faith, trust and confidence in the government and him. At first he seemed like the messiah we all have been waiting for."

In the letter, Pakote said Januarie's request for Geingob to address the union was not a genuine plea to get solutions to the problems faced by the sector but "an unfortunate manoeuvre for media grandstanding purposes".

The union had asked for a meeting with Geingob to discuss traffic fines, provisions of the Transport Act 74 of 1977, the implementation of a new transport policy and the release of all taxi drivers jailed for "minor traffic offences".

Although initially Geingob had agreed to meet the union leaders, he later cancelled the meeting and asked the works ministry executive director Willem Goeiemann to deal with the issues instead.

Another letter dated 11 March from the president's private office addressed to NTTU president Werner Januarie states: "H.E. the president, Dr Hage G Geingob has recommended that the ministry of works and transport, which is the line ministry responsible for the transport sector discuss this matter with you." The letter says Goeiemann should find an amicable solution.

Works ministry spokesperson Julius Ngweda told The Namibian that they have taken up Geingob's directive to act on the unions's concerns under its mandate.

Ngweda said it seemed unrealistic for Januarie to make demands such as the reduction of traffic fines, scrapping off all traffic fines and the release of taxi drivers jailed for "minor traffic offences".

"As a person who has the transport sector at heart, I want to support him and see him do good things. He is trying to do things which are somehow making sense but he is not following the right channels. Its true that taxi drivers' rights need to be defended," Ngweda said.

The works spokesperson noted that it would be impractical that certain crimes be written off while others are not.

He said the increase in traffic fines was an attempt to lower road accidents caused by reckless driving. If reduced, he said, drivers would be encouraged to be careless on the road.

He also said the ministry has appointed a consultant who will work with the ministry to amend the Road Transportation Act 74 of 1977, which he said is "not speaking to the current environment we are in." He added that Januarie was part of the consultative process together with various other stakeholders.

"He was also contributing to the discussions," said Ngweda.

Additionally, he said a new transport policy was launched last year by works minister John Mutorwa, and pointed out that Januarie was present during the event.

An unrelenting Januarie told The Namibian that the union will embark on a peaceful march to State House on 18 June. This is despite Pakote having informed Januarie on 10 May that Geingob "will not be able to grace the demonstration by NTTU, nor deliver an address."

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