THE situation in the Namibian taxi industry is out of control. Not only in the Northern regions but countrywide.
The Namibia Bus and Taxi Association (NABTA) is struggling to root out pirate taxis; is attempting to rein in individual taxi drivers who arbitrarily set their own taxi fares, and is sternly warning taxi operators who use their cabs as political campaigning tools.
NABTA’s secretary general Penda Nakathingo said that they learned a lesson during last year’s general and presidential elections campaign when taxis were abusively used as campaign tools, something NABTA will not tolerate in the future.
“A taxi is a public vehicle. It is for everyone. It is not for this or that political party, this or that candidate. Using a taxi to promote a specific party or a specific candidate is unethical and therefore unacceptable,” he said.
Nakathingo did not mention names, but it is common knowledge that that many taxi operators in the northern regions used their vehicles to campaign for independent presidential candidate Panduleni Itula last year.
Turning on the issue of taxi fares, Nakathingo said that the problem is not limited to the northern regions. “This is a countrywide phenomenon. This not limited to the North but countrywide and we are going to tackle it head on this year,” he said.
Commuters in the northern regions are complaining about exorbitant taxi fares as result of disorganization in the taxi industry.
The Ompumbu location of Oshakati is used as one example.
The location is situated less than two kilometres from the middle of the town, but there is no taxi rank and a taxi commuter has to pay N$24 per trip, while the taxi fare for those commuting from Oshakati to Ongwediva – about 10 km away – pay N$12 only.
Nakathingo said that this specific problem is easy to solve. “It is just a matter of requesting the town council to establish a taxi rank there. We will do just that,” he said.
Another example of unreasonable pricing is the new road from Oshakati to Oshikango via Endola. It is about 55 km long and taxi fares stand at N$65.
Previously those travelling between Oshakati and Oshikango did so via Ondangwa, a total distance of 90 km, costing them N$75 in taxi fares.
“The Endola road shortened the distance and the travel time, but it is comparatively more expensive,” said Nicolau Oliveira, an Angolan businessman who said he travels to Oshakati at least twice a month to do shopping.
Nakathingo admitted the existence of “unfair taxi fares” and promised a total overhaul of the industry this year.
“We are currently busy with rectification of the industry for the benefit of both the commuters and taxi operators. Those in the taxi industry have not enjoyed any meaningful benefits since independence 30 years ago, but this year is the year of their emancipation and we are already doing everything in concertation with various stakeholders,” he said.