The Francistown Taxi Association has accused the Francistown police of running an underground public transport black ÔÇômarket complete with fake blue number plates and a parallel taxi rank. Giving his speech during a consultation workshop conducted by Botswana Police Service in Francistown, Chairman of the Francistown Taxi Association, Tymon Matebesi portrayed the Francistown Taxi industry as a cesspool of corruption with police officers running pirate taxis and taking bribes from illegal civilian taxi operators who use their pirate taxis to smuggle stolen good and drugs.
“The numbers of pirate taxis are on the rise at the taxi rank. The police and transport officers are very much aware of this illicit business and they are silent mainly because they run some of these pirate taxis. They also receive briberies from these illegal taxi operators. Mapodisi le babereki ba transport ke magodu,” he said in vernacular meaning that the police and transport officers are thieves. He said that there are over 30 illegal taxis in the taxi rank which are operating without valid permits. He also added that these illegal taxis are also used to smuggle stolen properties and drugs especially at night.
“The police and the transport officers will never take any action against these culprits because they are family. There are many police and transport officers who are involved in the taxi business. Even if you can report some of these misdeeds to the police and the transport officers there is nothing you can achieve,” he said. He also said that some of the taxi operators at the taxi rank illegally sell alcohol. He dismissed the police and transport consultation meetings as a smokescreen to hide corruption, saying the meetings are useless as they never bear any fruits despite resolutions adopted. He further suggested that it is high time that clusters are established at the taxi rank to try and combat illicit activities that are wrecking havoc at the taxi rank.
“We have held several consultation meetings with the police and transport officers but these meetings have never borne any fruit. The police and transport officers have failed us. Perhaps it is high time that we established our own clusters at the taxi rank to try and purge these criminal activities,” he said to a loud applause of participants. Matebesi also said that there are a number of syndicates in Francistown that manufacture fake blue registration number plates which are used by the illegal taxi operators as a form of disguise. He also took issue with some taxi operators who have established an illegal taxi rank near the legitimate taxi rank.
“There is also another illegal taxi rank that is operated by these crooks near the legitimate taxi rank. They compete for customers with legal taxi operators which is not fair at all. The police and transport officials are aware of this and they are doing nothing about it,” he said. Responding to the concerns, the Assistant Superintendent of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) at Francistown Police Station, Rantshe Olebile said that they have never received such reports from the Taxi Association. He however encouraged the Taxi Association to report such incidents to their offices so that they can conduct investigations.
“The law of criminal procedure and evidence act also allows for anyone to arrest a person who is committing a criminal offence. Even a law enforcement agent can be arrested and be brought to book if they are involved in criminal activities because no one is above the law. I want to assure you that if you report such incidents to our offices we will deal with the culprits. We are also going to do our best to investigate such misdeeds and bring the culprits to book,” he said.