by Jabulile Mogane
On the 29th of February 2008, the Remmoho Women’s Forum aligned to the Anti Privatisation Forum (APF) marched to the Noord Taxi Rank. The march was intended to protest against the behaviour of taxi drivers at the rank. The drivers had sexually assaulted a young woman by the name of Nwabisa. She was verbally insulted, had her clothes torn off and privates parts poked for wearing a miniskirt.
The marchers were women and men from all parts of Gauteng though most of the marchers were women many of whom wore miniskirts and shorts. Remmoho had invited other organized women’s groups such as People Opposed to Woman’s Abuse, the Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre, SACCAWU, Gender Links and the Treatment Action Campaign. About 500 women participated in the protest including women who did not know about the action but liked the idea and joined us whilst they were on their way to do their errands.
Peoples started arriving from 09h00 at the Beyers Naude Square. Women are tired of abuse they are subject to, not only in public places such as the taxi ranks but also in their private lives. This was an opportunity to make a point. Women sang and danced carrying placards drawing attention to the purpose of the march. The march was so lively, some shopkeepers felt so threatened as to close their stores. The march stopped at every taxi stop to distribute pamphlets conveying Remmoho’s message.
At the Noord Street Taxi Rank speakers from different organizations gave speeches and messages of solidarity. Traffic was brought to a standstill whilst the speakers delivered their messages as the marchers blocked the exits of the rank. Our first memorandum was given to the Top Six Taxi Organization and the second was given to the police station commissioner who did not come but sent a Mr Mbembe on his behalf.
Our Demands Are:
1. Taxi industry to remove stickers in the taxis that degrade women and be replaced with a code of conduct for drivers with a referral number displayed so that a passenger can report any breach of the code.
2. Taxi associations and government must engage with women organisations such as Remmoho to develop an educational programme for taxi drivers.
3. Noord Taxi Rank be declared a hot spot with high police visibility.
4. Cameras be installed in the rank and be regularly monitored.
5. Noord Taxi Rank be cleaned and the noise level minimized.
6. That the perpetrators of the assault on Nwabisa be arrested.
7. We demand respect by taxi drivers to all commuters.
We gave the parties seven days to respond. After two weeks, Top Six Taxi Association responded by inviting us to a meeting. The aims of the meeting were to bring all stakeholders together to discuss a way forward. In the meeting, we agreed that all stakeholders would send a rep each to form a task team. The task team will help both the industry and the commuters to bring order in the taxi industry and to ensure sanity in the transport system. Nosipho Twala was mandated by Remmoho to sit on the task team. The police have unfortunately not responded as yet.
We did not like the response of the media. The march was well covered by both print and radios. The perception was created that the march was a salacious strip show. The point was clearly missed by the media. As with other community actions, the SABC disappointed by not covering the march despite being invited. The national broadcaster instead covered a second march on the same taxi rank organised by the Radio 702 talk show host, Redi Direko, that took place a week after Remmoho’s. Trust the media to cover celebrity rather than fact.
Remmoho welcomes the co-operation from the taxi organisations while hoping that the police will come on board. These attempts may bring relief to the day-to-day movement of women using public transport.