/ 21 February 2008

Taxi alliance apologises for miniskirt incident

The Gauteng National Taxi Alliance tendered an apology on Thursday to the woman who was assaulted at the Noord street taxi rank, allegedly by taxi drivers, and called on all taxi associations to investigate and suspend drivers implicated in the attack.

”We sincerely apologise to Nwabisa Ngcukana and others as well as their families for the humiliation they suffered, and we promise them that we will do everything we can to ensure that no other woman will suffer this indignity in our taxis and taxi ranks,” said the alliance’s general secretary, Alpheus Mlalazi.

Condemning the incident ”in the strongest possible terms”, he called on taxi associations operating in Noord Street to investigate and immediately suspend anyone implicated. He said the ”thuggish and barbaric” behaviour further tarnishes their image, which they are trying to turn around.

The association believes that although the matter must be investigated by police, it has to take steps internally to punish the offenders.

”The taxi industry is not a moralist institution charged with prescribing or teaching dress codes and behavioural norms to members of the public. Our business is to transport people from point A to point B in a humane, safe and comfortable environment,” said Mlalazi.

Ngcukana (25) was reportedly assaulted on Sunday when taxi drivers and hawkers at Johannesburg’s Noord Street taxi rank tore off her clothes to cheers from a crowd who said she was being taught a lesson for wearing a miniskirt.

The South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) said those involved should be ashamed and taken to task by the law.

”One wonders how the cowardly men who publicly humiliated and assaulted women in this way would feel if it was their own family or community members being attacked, or if they themselves were subjected to this degrading treatment,” Samwu continued.

”And those who watched this spectacle, and did nothing, including those who are supposed to protect the public, must also search their consciences, for they too have failed us,” it added.

The Aids Consortium said: ”Such actions undermine the dignity and strip away the human rights of all South African women, particularly those that suffered the humiliation.” It called on taxi associations to get support on educating and sensitising their workforce towards these issues.

Gauteng safety minister Firoz Cachalia was scheduled to meet representatives of the taxi industry, gender rights groups and policing authorities on Thursday to discuss the attack.

Police spokesperson Captain Cheryl Engelbrecht said investigations were continuing to find the perpetrators, but nobody had been arrested. An arrest reported on Wednesday was actually of a taxi driver who had been found with an unlicensed firearm during a police operation in the area. — Sapa