Open letter to public transport operators

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Let me start with a disclaimer first. This article is not by any means intended to ruffle any feathers or to pass any blame on you. I bear no malice towards you and I have no intentions of releasing my frustrations on you. In fact I respect you and I salute you for the mammoth work you do of transporting thousands of people daily to their various destinations. Every morning you wake up and leave your family to take us to work, school, shops, home and wherever we want to and come back home late when everyone is asleep. This is such back-breaking work with little reward.
But I am growing increasingly concerned with the behaviour of drivers on our roads of late. There are plenty of terrible driving habits in Botswana, but the most suicidal and daring actions I have observed are by you, public transport operators. You have very little regard for road regulations, which makes you the worst offenders. I know it’s not just taxis, every race/gender/background has people that think the law doesn’t apply to them. So complaining about taxi drivers is a bit like the pot calling the kettle. But in this letter my focus is on you. There just seems to be some level of acceptability when you break road traffic regulations. It has become the norm to see a taxi or combi stopping anywhere or turning wherever and whenever, sometimes even in full view of traffic officers!
A taxi driver can cut in front of you and when you confront him, the entire taxi rank will be on your case. You have complete disregard for the safety and the value of human life. You have adopted a lawlessness mindset and do not have the maturity or integrity to accept that you are still committing a offense. Do you ever stop and think, wow I could seriously hurt or even kill someone, or even myself, by driving like this?
This past Saturday, I took a combi to Tlokweng and almost didn’t make it home. Just 15 minutes after leaving the rank I was already wondering whether my funeral policy was up to date. The driver was homicidal. First of all, he was colour blind; green, amber and red all looked the same to him. And so we endured continuous hoots and near misses at all intersections. With every near miss, I thought about how I would be found injured! Worse, I would have paid a whole P3.50 for my trip to the grave. That was the fare every single soul in that combi was charged to gamble with their lives. As if to ensure that the trip absolutely felt like our last, he played local gospel music, just loud enough for it to sink in. I alighted from that combi mid-way to my destination, gospel choruses still ringing in my head and my heart sitting at the base of my neck.
When you graduate at UB, Boitekanelo College, or whatever tertiary institution, your life is supposed to begin, not end. Sadly, this was not the case for one of my friends, Moemedi. He died right on the spot when a bus he was on was involved in a head on collision due to over speeding and overtaking inappropriately. This left the community in shock. No one ever would have thought that the fun-loving, intelligent guy that we had just graduated with would be killed a few hours after his graduation, especially not by a reckless bus driver. Moemedi left behind family members and friends who are still not able to cope with his death.
I’m not going to bore you with my stories of woe but there are many. The sad reality is that it is not just the reckless public transport drivers’ lives that are in peril. Passengers and pedestrians of all ages have their lives devastated every year by your reckless attitudes and action.
Borra le bomma are boeleng marakanelong. A re itseyeng tsia, re tsee le bapalami ba rona tsia. Re tshwerwe matshelo a batho ka diatla tsa rona. Ke boikarabelo jo bogolo.
Be aware of the other road users, the environment, and most of all be aware of yourself while you are driving. Sometimes it’s easy to put the blame on someone else or bend driving rules because we think that “oh it’s only for this one time”. Remember, one time is all it takes. Let us remain committed to doing all that we can to prevent the pointless tragedies on our roads so the lives lost in road crashes are not in vain and let their deaths open our eyes to protect those who are living.
Maatla Otsogile
Society of Road Safety Ambassadors