Sonke Gender Justice and the South African National Taxi Council (SANTACO) with various other organisations have launched the Safe Ride Campaign to stop gender-based violence in the taxi industry and promote the safety of passengers.
SANTACO leadership and taxi operators gathered at the Gugulethu taxi rank on Thursday February 16 to raise awareness about the campaign and encourage those in the industry to take responsibility for their passengers, particularly women.
For many years women have been victims of harassment, assault and rape while using public transport.
Zoleka Mali, a counsellor at Mosaic Training Service and Healing Centre, said at least two incidents of rape had been reported since the start of this month. Both incidents took place in Philippi.
“Both victims were in their thirties. One was returning from work while the other was coming from church,” she said.
Co-ordinator for Sonke Gender Justice, Aviwe Mtibe said they aimed to promote passenger safety and denounced the senseless abuse of women on taxis.
He argued that women did not feel safe when travelling by taxi, especially at night, and claimed some drivers were perpetrators of abuse against women.
Mr Mtibe said the campaign appealed to taxi operators to play their role in eradicating gender-based violence and to get rid of those who damaged the image of the industry.
He said they felt that it was necessary to initiate the campaign because a lot of people relied on taxis for transportation.
“We are glad that the taxi drivers have endorsed this campaign and are willing to work with us. We know that we can’t do this alone hence we are also appealing to the public to play their part in making South Africa a violence-free country,” he said.
Santaco president Philip Taaibosch said taxi drivers were in the business to make money and to ensure commuter safety.
He said perpetrators of gender-based violence were not real taxi drivers, and should be kicked out of the industry.
“How is it when you hear people calling you a rapist? Today I’m carrying a name of being called rapist as a taxi operator. Look at yourself and how do you feel when people say these things about you as a taxi owner and an operator. Is it right that you can’t be trusted by the community which you serve?” he asked.
“We need to take responsibility from now on and change this stigma.”
Mr Taaibosch said the taxi industry transported millions of people across the country daily and they should ensure that commuters were safe.
Irish ambassador to South Africa, Liam Mac Gabhann, said gender-based violence was a global issue.
He called on South Africa to protect women and children, and promote their rights. He said the government could never win the fight alone and appealed to taxi operators to lead the fight.
Centre coordinator at the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), Nobuhle Malunga, said they opted to be part of the campaign because people were not aware of their services. She said they provide medical assistance and trauma counselling to rape victims while assisting them to file cases with the police.
She said they also provided ongoing counselling and urged people to open rape cases within 72 hours.