Taxi drivers schooled about violence and harassment of passengers

The following article first appeared on Times Live, 16 February 2017
By Farren Collins

The industry launched its “Safe Ride” campaign in Johannesburg in August 2016.

But NGO Sonke Gender Justice‚ who are collaborating with the SA National Taxi Association Council (Santaco) on the campaign‚ believe that it has already started to make a difference.

Safe Ride‚ which was started last year with the aim of creating awareness around harassment and sexual violence of passengers by taxi drivers and queue marshals‚ launched its second leg in Gugulethu‚ Cape Town‚ on Thursday.

Sonke Community Education Mobilisation Manager Nonhlanhla Skosana said that in order to prevent gender-based violence‚ men had to be engaged‚ which is why they were working closely with taxi drivers‚ who are predominantly male.

“We have had a lot of buy-in from Santaco‚ and so far we have trained 200 taxi drivers and engaged with 80 more in Johannesburg‚” said Skosana.

“We have had a positive response from drivers to champion this campaign‚ who then take it to other drivers. We also encourage them to talk to family members and community members because some of them are very influential in their communities.”

Santaco president Philip Taaibosch‚ said that the association was born to service society and had to do so responsibly‚ as he addressed a small crowd at Gugulethu Square Taxi Rank.

“We have to ensure that taxis are a friendly (mode of) transport for women‚ children and all of society‚” said Taaibosch.

“We are a serious employer and a serious industry‚ so why can’t we be serious about protecting women and children.”

Santaco was second only to government for its employee numbers‚ and over 15.5 million people used taxis to commute every day despite the industry losing customers‚ according to Taaibosch.

Anathi Mayekiso‚ 22‚ was one of those commuters who now prefers to walk and uses taxis only when she has no choice.

“Most of the time I walk because I don’t feel safe [in a taxi] and I’m not able to be comfortable‚” she said.

“Sometimes they don’t take me where I’m supposed to be taken‚ and so now I prefer walking.”

The first training for drivers in Cape Town will take place next week at the Nyanga Taxi Rank.

Skosana said the training required at least 20 hours in order to change attitudes. Drivers would be educated about gender norms‚ gender stereotypes and how men could better engage in the prevention of gender based violence.