Contrary to what it promised the nation, the Gaborone Taxi and Bus Service Association has failed to get its members to wear uniforms. However, the finger of blame is pointed at the government, which, in its defence, says that it was never part of any project to get taximen to dress up in the first place.
It also turns out that there has been a falling out between the taximen and the association over use of funds.
The association chairman, Gibson Matenge, says that the dress code plan has not been effected because “as usual the government didn’t come on board” and, as a result, the whole plan collapsed.
“The public transport industry is run by a tripartite: operators, the Ministry of Works and Transport and the Police. The introduction of the dress code was supposed to be a partnership with the government. The government was supposed to enforce it as well as assist the publicity campaign but it did not come on board and the whole thing stalled,” Matenge says.
On the other hand, Charles Keikotlhae, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Works and Transport, says that the association owned the dress code initiative wholly and that the ministry was only notified about it on a for-your-information basis as it is a stakeholder.
“The association was reacting to public outcry about the conduct of its members. We were merely notified of what action the association intended to take as stakeholders in public transport. There was never any arrangement that we would enforce the dress code and such enforcement doesn’t concern us,” Keikotlhae says.
That notwithstanding, Matenge says that they are still waiting for an ‘opportunity’ to meet with the Works and Transport Permanent Secretary and air their views.
Exactly how the dress code was going to be enforced was never clear because, in the first place, the operators did not seem terribly keen on being told what to wear to work. Some of them went on record as saying that there was no way that they could be compelled to dress in any particular way. It also turns out that not all operators recognise the power and authority of the association over them. One says that their operations are regulated by the department of transport, not the association and that their permits don’t recommend any dress code.
“The requirement is that we should be clean and also keep our cars that way. It says absolutely nothing about dressing any particular way,” he says.
He suggests that the dress code plan was just a ploy by the association to shake them down for easy money. Up until not very long ago, taximen paid a sum of P3 a day towards the association’s coffers. The sum was subsequently raised to P6 with the explanation that the money would be used to finance administrative work and pay for legal fees of a pending court case. The case never came about and upon enquiring about the use of their money and evaluating the reasons thereof, taximen came to the conclusion that they were being given a raw deal. They stopped paying the daily subscriptions.
Despite its name, the Association has gone national. In an earlier interview, Matenge said 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 was part of a PR exercise to spruce up the image of an industry that is hardly ever associated with virtue.