By Eveline de Klerk
In what is perhaps unparalleled for the Namibian short-distance taxi industry the Walvis Bay branch of the taxi association has introduced taxi fares for groceries.
The charges for groceries range from N$5 for 12,5-kilogramme bags of sugar, maize, flour or potatoes up to a N$10 additional charge for groceries weighing between 10 kg and 25 kg, including boxes of fish. The charges are in addition to the newly increased standard N$10 fare paid by commuters and N$20 for those wishing to be dropped off at their homes or where there are no taxi ranks.
Walvis Bay taxi fares increased from N$9 to N$10 while for commuters being transported to areas where there are no taxi ranks the price increased from N$18 to N$20.
The new fares irked residents when the Namibia Bus and Taxi Association (Nabta) branch at Walvis Bay circulated its new taxi fare list this week. Residents feel the fares are exploitative, more so given the prevailing economic conditions.
“The N$2 increase was fine but really charging residents for their groceries is ridiculous,” says Walvis Bay resident Tostao Imbili.
Nabta has however responded that it is precisely because of the prevailing economic conditions that it introduced the new charges. “Fuel increases every year, however the last time Nabta increased taxi prices in Walvis Bay was in 2014.
We have not complained,” says Nabta representative for Walvis Bay, Joseph Nanzimbo, denying that Nabta is exploiting commuters. He added that taxi drivers are always at the receiving end of things.
Nanzimbo says the new price list was drawn up after consultations with taxi drivers, who felt that such charges are necessary.
Walvis Bay residents however feel differently. “How did they come up with such prices and why?” asked pensioner Martha Nampala, who feels the fares are unaffordable for pensioners and disabled persons who rely on public transport for mobility.
Imbili dismisses the fuel increase reason advanced by Nabta, saying fuel is much cheaper at Walvis Bay than in any other town. “This should work as an advantage for taxi operators and commuters. Really, such increases must be taken up with the Walvis Bay Municipality as taxi drivers operate within the municipality’s jurisdiction.”
Imbili is of the opinion that taxis at Walvis Bay cannot be compared with taxis operating in Windhoek, as the latter is the capital city.
Another resident, Nambili Elago, says she had an argument with a taxi driver demanding to be paid the new fare.
She saw the new price list on social networks but thought that it was a fake price list and a hoax, until she was charged N$20 to be dropped off at her rented shack at Tutaleni.
“I argued with the taxi driver for charging me N$20, only to realise that the prices are in actual fact from Nabta. I have never seen an announcement or an advert of the new prices in the media,” says a fuming Elago.