The proprietor of W.Khanda Express, Witness Khanda this week found himself embroiled in a bitter war of words with a customer who boarded his bus from Francistown with intention to come to Gaborone but ended up deciding to disembark halfway in Palapye.
The passenger, Thebe Modise, boarded Khanda’s bus at the Francistown bus rank over the weekend and paid the full fare for Francistown- Gaborone journey. He however decided to disembark in Palapye and carry out some business and demanded a refund for the remaining stretch (Palapye- Gaborone) from the bus conductor who told him it was impossible to get a refund once the ticket has been issued. When he arrived in Gaborone on Monday, Modise contacted Khanda and demanded a refund but was given the same answer he got from the bus conductor, that he could not be refunded.
Khanda wanted Modise to give compelling reasons for his decision to disembark in Palapye instead of taking the full journey to Gaborone as initially planned and paid for. It was at this point that Modise in turn asked Khanda to show him the law that requires him to give bus operators reasons for cutting his trip short before he could be refunded. Reached for comment, Khanda confirmed that he had indeed refused to refund Modise but blamed Modise for lack of cooperation. He said he was justified in asking Modise to give reasons for not completing his journey because that would have allowed him to use his discretion on whether he refunds him or not.
He said just as Modise wants to be shown the law that compels passengers to give reasons for cutting short their journey, Modise should also show him the law that compels him to refund passengers. “I run a business here, you don’t just climb in and out of my bus like you are climbing a tree”, a seemingly angry Khanda said in an interview. He said it would be a risk to his business if he allowed people to get refunds whenever they felt like cutting short their destinations as this would give room for stealing by the conductors. “Imagine the conductor telling me all passengers decided to disembark in Palapye. What would I say or do to him?” he asked rhetorically.
Khanda says he runs his business just the same way Air Botswana runs its business where you don’t just come and decide to abandon your trip and expect a full refund. He says he only knows of the law that requires him to refund passengers in the event he fails to take them to their destination due to unforeseen circumstances such as break downs along the trip. When pressed to state the laws that cover his refusal to refund customers, Khanda said he has in the past refunded some people who were willing to give compelling reasons and that the only reason he refused to assist Modise was his refusal to give reasons.
He says in the past he has refunded a passenger who had to cut her journey short due to her infant suddenly falling sick and deciding to remain half way through the journey. “It’s just that some passengers don’t realize we are in business and treat like us taxi men”, Khanda said. The public relations officer at the Department of Road Transport and Safety Mmapula Sampson said customers are entitled to get refund when they disembark halfway through the trip. She said she is aware of reasons advanced by some bus operators but stated that communication is very vital in resolving such issues.
While acknowledging the inconvenience that the passengers may endure in having to deal with bus owners instead of bus conductors when they need their refund, she urged the public to make use of the Inspectorate Division in the department of road transport and safety as it was set up to deal with such issues where passengers and bus operators have disagreements.