Much has been said before in this space regarding the minibus code of conduct and the need for a much-desired improvement in the service provided. From all appearances, this well-intended initiative, which was implemented in 2019, has made little or no positive impact on the overall operations of minibuses. If the intention was just for a focus group, then it’s possible some gains may have been made.
The implementation of the code of conduct was never going to be easy, given what had unfortunately become an engrained culture of disrespect for traffic laws and scant regard for passengers’ welfare by many operators. Numerous complaints have been made in the past, and continue to be made, about harassment of passengers by touts.
Touts, who have no investments in the minibuses, demand a sum that they fix from operators in order to solicit passengers for them. In the ensuing competition among them, many passengers, including senior citizens, are tugged back and forth at the various parks. It becomes a nightmare for commuters as all helplessly watch the ill-mannered touts continue their daily reprehensible routine.
It therefore becomes imperative that the Police sustain their crackdown to curb this menace of the touts. The goal is for commuters to be free from harassment in their travel, which can possibly see passengers with a personal choice of bus waiting at their own convenience.
In almost every bus park, there are drivers who adhere to what may exist as a line/turn system of loading. However, there are others operating “special buses” with no regard for such order, and blatantly use selected space to load, which generally conflicts with traffic laws. Indivertibly, it leads to an extension in the waiting time for those in the line.
This concern has been raised over time, with very sporadic intervention seemingly just to appease for a particular moment. Aggrieved operators have alleged that a high number of the “special buses” are owned by influential persons, of which many are from the Police Force. If true, it would probably explain the glaring lack of interest for meaningful intervention, as allegations have been levelled about overloading, loud music, and breach of road licence, to name a few.
This is where a more holistic approach for improvement in the service becomes difficult, unless all operators are treated equally. Some operators have indicated that all can benefit and achieve their daily targets without the harassment and frustration if a systematic approach to loading is implemented, and to which all must abide. However, abiding seems extremely difficult for some operators, who fragrantly refuse to respect traffic laws and their road service licences.
From all understanding, the road service demarks the various routes through specific streets, as in the city and roadways for other areas. The reality is that unauthorised streets, even though some villages, are used daily and recklessly by some operators in an effort to avoid traffic lights and to race ahead of others.
The official routes have been designed and agreed for a particular purpose, which took safety into consideration. A lack of adherence poses tremendous dangers to residents, including children. It also adds to congestion, and heightens risk for other users.
In addition, undertaking and cutting abruptly into traffic now appear legal aspects of driving. If there are constant crackdowns on the use of unauthorised streets and roadways, and ensuring defaulters feel the brunt of the law, there is a good chance this menace would be curbed. The same goes for undertaking, especially at the approaches of traffic lights.
While the Police can cite challenges in their human resource, there can be no excuse for turning a blind eye when a violation occurs in their presence.