/ 7 March 2008

Taxi body offers apology over miniskirt attack

A national taxi body is to apologise to the woman who was sexually assaulted at Johannesburg’s Noord Street taxi rank last month.

”We would like publicly apologise to her … we just want to meet her,” said South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) secretary general Philip Taaibosch in Johannesburg on Friday.

He said the body would also like to apologise to all women who had suffered abuses while using taxi transport.

Nwabisa Ngcukana was stripped naked and sexually assaulted, allegedly by taxi drivers and hawkers, for wearing a miniskirt.

Taaibosch was speaking in a meeting with members of the Commission on Gender Equality (CGE) and the Progressive Women’s Movement to discuss the February 17 miniskirt incident.

Ngcukana’s legal representative at the CGE, Keketso Maema, said she would speak to her client and ask if she was willing to meet with Santaco.

”It will depend on her and if she is amenable,” she said.

GCE commissioner Lehobo Maitse said the rights watchdog was not waging a war on the taxi industry but was holding it accountable for all forms of sexual harassment in its taxis and at its ranks.

Taaibosch said the organisation took responsibility for the incident.

”It is unacceptable and we will address it. I can make this promise here: one way or another we must take responsibility.”

He said a task team had been formed to look into the incident.

”We will use every resource, unlock every door to ensure these perpetrators are brought to book.”

Taaibosch said the taxi driver’s pledge, a promise of dignity and safety, would also be launched in Johannesburg on March 17.

While the body itself does not have regulatory powers, it will work with the authorities to make sure that once the perpetrators are identified, they will no longer be allowed to drive taxis.

”We as Santaco have no powers to say we can dismiss this driver,” he said.

Taaibosch said the recent incident once again ”tarnished” the image of the industry.

He said in the past — before the Constitution was formed — ”jungle law” would have prevailed.

”They [the perpetrators] would have been found and action would have been taken,” he said.

”Now we are living in a changed South Africa. We are living where there is an institution of law … we leave some of these things in their hands,” he said.

GCE chief executive Chana Majake said the commission realised it is a ”mammoth” task to root out negative elements in the taxi industry.

”We do acknowledge that you are trying and we will continue to hold you accountable.”

Taaibosch said the excuse that women who wore miniskirts distracted drivers is unacceptable.

”It is not acceptable to me or the organisation that people come with the notion that he cannot control himself. If he cannot control himself, he must not be in public.” — Sapa