The country’s taxi industry aims to register its own security company and to work in collaboration with the police and the private security sector (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)
The South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) has big plans to join the fight against crime to “clean” the streets of KwaZulu-Natal, in close partnership with the police and security companies, to protect its taxi operators and commuters.
As the organisation starts a three-day imbizo, Santaco KwaZulu-Natal chairperson Boy Zondi announced on Monday — together with the eThekwini metro police and industry regulators — that the council has plans to form and register its own security company, while ensuring that the private security firms it currently hires are legally compliant.
eThekwini metro police spokesperson Colonel Boysie Zungu; Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (Psira) KwaZulu-Natal manager, Ncamisile Mhlongo and Nonhlanhla Hlope, the acting chief director at the provincial regulatory entity within the department of transport, responsible for issuing licences to taxi operators, confirmed their support of the initiatives at the media briefing.
Zondi said Santaco was launching the security initiatives at the behest of provincial police commissioner Lieutenant General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi, who is expected to attend the imbizo on Tuesday, after he urged the organisation to “formalise” its contribution to safety and security and its relationship with the police.
Santaco launched Operation Hlokomela — which involves taxi drivers and their representatives assisting people on the roadside outside of their working hours — after a young girl from the Sekhukhune district in Limpopo went missing after hitching a ride to Polokwane.
Zondi said Santaco had resolved at its annual general meeting that it needed to “build a strong partnership” with security companies and “all enforcement units” and that this had arisen “out of the challenges we are facing as a taxi industry in KZN”. This, he said, included high crime at taxi ranks and the presence of people wearing branded clothing who pretended to be protecting passengers (hlokomelas) but instead robbed them.
“The first challenge is you wake up in the morning and go to the taxi rank and there are people coming into the association by force and the association doesn’t know what to do,” Zondi said.
“So, we decided at the AGM that we need to form our own security company but, before we can form our own security company, we need to partner with existing security companies who are going to assist us with the problems we are facing.”
Zondi said taxi operators were aware of rampant crime, such as muggings, at taxi ranks and in the small towns where they operate, “so we decided to partner with law enforcement”.
In Port Shepstone, on the South Coast, where crime was prevalent, Santaco had hired unemployed people to patrol the streets to protect commuters from criminals.
“People were snatching bags in the road. We employed people and now they have cleaned Port Shepstone town — you can go and walk there now with your cellphone,” Zondi said.
“We thought, let us start that partnership we started in Port Shepstone and roll it out throughout KZN … and try to help law enforcers to get rid of everything that is illegal in KZN … We want to partner with all law enforcers in KZN to help them clean KZN.
“In KZN, there are 17 million people, and a few police officers. It is impossible for the police to be everywhere and we are in charge of all the taxi ranks. We have more than 200 taxi ranks in KZN where we can help close that gap and say, ‘Not in our area … everything that is not supposed to be happening in our taxi ranks — no more.’”
“When we come out of our imbizo, any form of wrong things taking place in our taxi ranks must come to an end. We are not going to leave it to the police any more but we are going to catch every one and take them to the police.”
Zondi said police commissioner Mkhwanazi had been “the one pushing” for the taxi industry to formalise its involvement in the fight against crime, especially after it had assisted the government in bringing the July 2021 looting and civil unrest under control.
He said the industry would continue to hire private security firms until it was ready to register its own company.
The metro police’s Zungu said the city police’s relationship with the taxi industry was “not that bad but I hope this imbizo will assist in improving the safety of operators and their passengers and that it will assist in terms of how we conduct operations”.
“There are fake ‘hlokomela’s’ and Santaco will assist us to come up with a strategy to ensure the ‘hlokomela’ runs an operation in line with the laws of this country and it will assist in reducing the conflict in the industry that is taking the lives of operators and passengers,” he said.
Mhlongo said Santaco had invited Psira to the imbizo to guide its compliance with the law in terms of the security firms it hires.
“Every security provider in the country has to be registered with the authority. Santaco has invited us so we can enlighten them to be fully compliant and ensure they are trained in terms of the security standards to ensure there is compliance in the security industry,” Mhlongo said.