Commuters stranded as transport operators clash
Commuters travelling between Shakawe, Mohembo and Samochima are bearing the brunt of a bitter dispute between taxi and combi operators whose fight for territory has escalated into a fully blown industrial cock-up.
A directive by Road Transport and Safety Department officials in Shakawe barring local taxi operators from making trips outside Shakawe has set the Department on a collision course with the northern town’s taxi operators and combi drivers from nearby Mohembo.
Secretary of the Taxi Committee in Shakawe, Kgopiso Boitumelo, warned that the situation is likely to get worse if an amicable solution is not found soon.
“This matter first came out six months ago following a complaint from Mohembo combi operators. The Transport office in Shakawe ordered that all Shakawe taxis should not operate outside their allowed perimeters, a situation that has been ongoing for as long as I can remember,” he explained.
Boitumelo said they sought the intervention of the Regional office in Maun, who advised them to comply with the order from the Shakawe office, which he said was brutally enforced by the police.
According to Boitumelo, this left numerous commuters stranded as most people who work in Shakawe either reside in Mohembo or Samochima, located around 10km out of town.
“Some commuters were used to taking a taxi special to reach the ferry before it departs, instead of waiting for a combi to fill up. Now that option has been taken away from them,” said the worried Boitumelo.
“I honestly don’t understand why taxis and combis can’t co-exist in Shakawe. We have to share the road and think first about our clients before anything else. We don’t do Mohembo East because of the river but we ferry people to the pontoon,” he continued animatedly.
A permit holder and taxi operator in Shakawe, Naomi Kebitseng told The Voice that the current stand-off between taxi and combi operators is harming both businesses.
Kebitseng said the two need to find common ground lest they be deemed as failing to provide the service they signed up for.
“We have been servicing the villages outside Shakawe for sometime because combis can only do so much. We are not taking their customers but only transport customers who specifically prefer taxis,” she said, adding that Mohembo boasts a population of over 10, 000 but only has four combis.
“Should we stop transporting commuters who arrive in Shakawe at night?
“We provide this service because there’s a need. We cannot leave clients stranded when we have the means to service them,” pointed out an exasperated Kebitseng.
Efforts were made to contact the Regional Station Manager in Maun but he was said to be locked in a meeting with the District Commissioner.