A dress code for Botswana public transport operators will be introduced in two weeks.
Gibson Matenge, the chairman of the Gaborone Taxi and Bus service Association, says that they have approached a number of local fashion designers to come up with design concepts.
“When the dress code is fully implemented there will no longer be any taxi driver or conductor who comes to work wearing a muscle top with soup stains or an oil-stained pair of trousers. Those who fail to comply won’t be allowed to ferry passengers,” Matenge says.
Despite its name, the Association has gone national and Matenge says that while the implementation of the dress code would start in Gaborone, it would later be rolled out to the rest of the country.
The dress code is part of a PR exercise to spruce up the image of an industry that is hardly ever associated with virtue. Just two weeks ago, the Association tangled with the Parents-Teachers Association of St. Joseph’s Secondary School over a decision by the latter to replace the service of Association members with a special bus. The operators are accused of a litany of wrongdoings ranging from dangerous driving to collective punishment of students to use of objectionable language. Both parties are asserting rights over the students. The parents say they want to protect the morality as well as ensure the safety of their children. While not contesting the parents’ right to do what they feel is best for their children, Matenge says that the action that the parents ‘unilaterally’ took has had the effect of ‘interfering with the normal course of business.’
The matter has not been resolved and Matenge says that they plan to meet all concerned parties.
At about the same time that the dress code is introduced, the Association will undertake an intensive public education campaign through the media.
“We intend to notify the public about our proposals for improving the transport industry’s service standards. We want to educate members of the public about the complaint procedure they should follow when they are aggrieved about service. The public perception of operators is a negative one because the good that we do does not get nearly adequate publicity. We want to take it upon ourselves to tell the other side of the story,” Matenge says.
Over five years ago, the Association submitted a proposal to the government in which it outlined how service standards could be improved. It also called upon the devolvement of power and authority from the department of transport to the Association and that the industry be further empowered through self-regulation. Matenge says that the constant movement of senior personnel within the department has made it impossible for any headway to be made with regard to the adoption of what they recommended.
“The officers always say they are new to the department and that they are still studying our proposal,” he says.
Although it does not seem to get as much legislative attention as it deserves, the public transport industry is very important to the national economy. Matenge estimates that nationally the industry makes over P1 million per day.