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Ghetto’s taxi tension

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DRIVERS ACCUSE DRTS OF FRAUD

The Department of Road, Transport and Safety (DRTS) in Francistown has come under the spotlight following allegations of fraudulent issuing of taxi permits.

According to a growing number of concerned taxi operators in the second city, there has been a rapid rise in new permits issued in the last four years, resulting in severe congestion at Ghetto’s cramped taxi rank.

The Voice has been informed that the new entrants in the industry have managed to acquire multiple permits in a suspiciously short period of time.

“This is despite the fact that issuing of permits has been frozen since 2015,” said Kenosi Mabutho, a Francistown-based Taxi-driver since 2000.

Mabutho explained that together with a group of his colleagues, they approached the new players to inquire about their recently acquired permits.

“They told us that they pay P10, 000 to a DRTS officer to be issued with the permits!” claimed Mabutho, whose own application for a second permit was rejected by DRTS in 2015.

According to Mabutho, reasons advanced for the rejection were that the rank could only facilitate 75 taxis, with the number of taxis in Francistown already exceeding 300 at the time.

Other reasons provided were that police correspondence indicated the situation at the rank did not warrant additional permits as traffic flow was halted by taxis overflowing into the rank exit.

“I thought it was fair, but today as we speak taxi numbers have increased to well over 700! Where are all these permits coming from?” Mabutho demanded rhetorically.

Five years on and the Francistown businessman’s further attempts to get another permit have also proved unsuccessful.

The upset driver told The Voice he fears that honest operators like him risk being put out of business by ‘unscrupulous’ DRTS officers.

“I’ve been in this business for 20 years, and I’ve seen people come in and within a year they already have multiple permits. How do they do it when issuing has been frozen for the last five years?” reiterated an increasingly irate Mabutho.

The Voice’s follow-up investigations revealed that a former DRTS officer (names withheld) is among the new operators and now owns a fleet of taxis.

Documents seen by this publication show that at the time he was an employee, the said officer issued or helped issue a number of taxi permits to his friend (names withheld) and then resigned to run a taxi business using the same permits.

It is not the first time that a DRTS officer has been accused of issuing taxi permits fraudulently.

In a James Bond-like sting-operation back in 2018, a Maun-based DRTS official was nabbed by Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) officers after receiving money from an undercover DCEC operative.

The DCEC impounded 22 taxis in the sting, while several people were also questioned for their role in the illegal business.

Meanwhile, a questionnaire was emailed to DRTS Station Manager, Selela Tshwene and his Deputy, Diana Moremi last Friday.

Five days later and the pair were yet to respond by the time The Voice went to print.

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