Naledi Moses* doesnâ€
â€œWhen he put his hand on my thigh at the stop sign, I just opened the door and ran. I didnâ€
Over the past two weeks, nine women have reported that they were raped in taxis in Soweto. Community Safety MEC Thapelo Moiloa said told the Daily Vox that this number is likely to rise. Similar cases have been reported in Naturena and Booysens, Johannesburg south. â€œIt has been going on for some time now but victims chose to keep silent on these burning matters and it’s only now that they have started reporting these rape ordeals,â€ said Moiloa.
But there does not appear to be a coordinated response to women’s safety in taxi industry from all sectors involved.
Taxi drivers deny the problem is with the industry
Taxi drivers who the Daily Vox spoke to in Ivory Park, Soweto, said they didnâ€
â€œI am certain that through police investigation they will find out that they [the perpetrators] arenâ€
Some maintained that women are responsible for their own safety when commuting. Thomas Tshabalala, who has been driving a taxi for the past 30 years, said women make themselves vulnerable to rape. â€œIn the way that they dress and some are loose when theyâ€
According to the department of transport, 68% of the country relies on minibus taxis for transport.
Your safety is your own concern
Last week, Transport Minister Dipuo Peters told commuters to take â€œnecessary precautionsâ€ when using public transport.
â€œThey must advise their family members, friends or co-workers of all their travel routes and schedule, including sending the registration of the mode of transportation they use,â€ she said in a statement. â€œThey must observe everything around them and must not doze off or get too distracted by other things because lack of attention can make anyone an easy target of crime.â€
The SAPS is investigating the rapes and have not made any arrests yet, but the overwhelming sentiment from officials is that people must take responsibility for their own safety.
SAPS spokesperson Captain Kay Makhubela echoed Peters view that people need to take safety precautions to prevent being victims of attacks. â€œAs police we can move on the road and not know that there is a problem until someone is telling us there is a problem,â€ he said.
South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) spokesperson Ralph Jones warned that criminals may take advantage of passengers who catch taxis on roadsides rather than at taxi ranks.
â€œWe will play our part but commuters must also play their part. They must ensure that they donâ€
Jones said the rape reports were a â€œwake up callâ€. â€œThis has never happened, it is something new so we need to improve security,â€ he said, adding, â€œWe need to speak to IT, we need to install vehicle trackers, cameras.”
National transport department spokesperson Collen Msibi meanwhile said that issue of security was not the transport departmentâ€
â€œWe continue to work closely with law enforcement agencies and Santaco to deal with the criminal elements who are invading the taxi space and raping our women,â€ Msibi said.
A gender activist says simply advising women about on safety precautions is not helpful.
Rehana Moosajee, a consultant and former Gauteng provincial minister for transport, said there needs to be a much more â€œthought-through approachâ€ to understand harassment and assault on minibus taxis and that long-term solutions needed to be implemented to counter these.
For many women, the daily taxi commute is a dehumanising and potentially dangerous event. â€œThe taxi drivers are the worst. The way they speak to you, they donâ€
*Names have been changed