By Danica Hansen and Ruth Majola

Public outrage was sparked after the fatal accident near Dalton that claimed the lives of five young learners as well as a taxi driver assistant earlier in August.

According to reports, two taxi drivers were allegedly playing a game of ‘chicken’ when the collision took place along R614 Mount Elias Road. There are also claims that the drivers were under the influence of alcohol. Taxi commuter, Sthembile Mondlane (28) said: “Drivers who gamble with people’s lives don’t deserve to carry passengers. it sounds like a stupid game to me,” she said.

Mondlane added that drivers sometimes race with passengers inside. “They don’t realise the dangers they put the passengers in.” Another commuter, Zethembe Mkhize (40) said, “He knows about racing game especially in the inner city taxis when they rush to get passengers but do not approve of the game because it is dangerous. I don’t know about this other game and I wouldn’t recommend it,” he said.

The game, ‘chicken’, was unheard of for local taxi drivers. Smiso Nkwanyana, (32) said that he has never heard of the game. “It sounds very dangerous to me. I wouldn’t put my passengers in a situation like that even if it was a bet,” he said.

Some taxi conductors had heard of the game but saw it as an urban legend, not a reality. He said that he had heard of the game but didn’t think people were actually doing. “It is so crazy to put people’s lives at risk like that. Taxi drivers are considered to be reckless but that is taking it too far-not with the passengers, that is just wrong,” said taxi conductor, Themba Jali (25).
From community members to political bodies, outrage at the incident was unanimous and the taxi carnage in Dalton was pinpointed as one of many accidents involving taxis. “There is seldom a week that goes by without further loss of life on our roads, in particular when it comes to public transport. The DA expects the MEC to take these steps as a matter of urgency in an effort to stop this carnage,” said Rafeek Shah, MPL DA KZN Spokesperson on Transport.

While outrage was expressed on the streets, authorities claimed that the taxis in question were not registered. “The taxi that crashed in Dalton did not belong to any registered organisation, the challenge is when the community hires taxis without going through the authorities. Passengers have the right to ask the driver to show them their papers and the community has a responsibility to consult the local taxi authority when hiring a taxi. Day commuters can avoid illegal taxis by going to a taxi rank to catch a taxi,” said Jeffrey Ngobese Provincial training officer from the South African National Taxi Council (SANTACO).

Community members can call the Provincial taxi office on 033 8978 760 to report problems or seek advice. “The law must take its course, these accidents were caused by the negligence of the drivers and the taxi association offers their condolences to the families of those who lost their lives,” said Vusi Vivian Cele, chairman of the Escort Taxi Association.

By taking a stand against unfit taxi drivers, the community and the authorities can put a stop to accidents of this nature.