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Safety at hiking spots a concern


Taxi associations have previously pointed out that they have permits allowing them to pick up commuters at these hiking spots

CONCERNS continue to be raised about the safety of commuters and drivers at “hiking spots” in the city after a disabled driver was assaulted earlier this week.

Katlholo Thomas was reportedly attacked by an unknown man after he picked up hitch-hikers at a well-known hiking spot on the Seleke Street/Homelite crossing on Monday morning.

Hiking spots have come under the spotlight recently, with many commuters choosing to use the services of private individuals rather than utilising registered taxis.

Taxi drivers have in turn accused the private vehicle owners of “stealing” their customers and their income.

Taxi associations have previously pointed out that they have permits allowing them to pick up commuters at these hiking spots.

Commuters, in turn, have said that they should be allowed to choose their preferred method of transport as it is their money.

Other individuals have in the meantime seen an opportunity to make an easy income by acting as “marshalls” and charging private vehicles a fee before loading hitch-hikers.

According to Thomas, he picked up two women who wanted a lift to Barkly West on Monday morning when a “marshall” made an appearance and demanded R10 from him.

“I said I didn’t have the money and he became angry, ripping open my passenger door. He grabbed my lunch bag, and used it to smash my window,” Thomas said.

Thomas, who is a paraplegic, stated that he and his two female passengers could not do anything and felt helpless.

He added that other people and taxi drivers who were parked nearby did not intervene or provide any assistance.

He added that he has opened a case of assault against his attacker at the Roodepan police station.

Thomas said he used the route on a weekly basis as he works in Kimberley and stays in Barkly West and had previously seen his attacker “hanging around the area”.

“I often see him demanding money from the drivers of private vehicles, before allowing them to drive off with hitch-hikers.

“He also knows me as I often give people a lift.”

One hitch-hiker, Dipuo Raadt, expressed her concern about the “bullying” at hiking spots.

She said that she had to call the police after she was threatened by taxi drivers at the hiking spot.

According to her, she had an emergency in Kuruman and had to get there as quickly as possible. She added that taxis were not prepared to negotiate the fee, unlike a private car owner.

“There were taxis but there were only three passengers in the first one in the queue. So I decided to hitch-hike in order to arrive at my destination quicker,” said Raadt.

“The police arrived and told the taxi operators that they belonged at the taxi rank. They were further warned to leave hikers alone as they are hiking at their own risk.

“The law should communicate with us and be transparent with regards to these permits,” she concluded.

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