From a general public perspective, the government ban on the transportation of schoolchildren on bakkies – the so-called ‘bakkie taxis’ – will be welcomed.
Officially enforced since Thursday last week, Regulation 250 of the National Road Traffic Act determines that ‘no person shall on a public road convey schoolchildren in the goods compartment of a motor vehicle for reward’.
For many years there has been an outcry about the many innocent schoolchildren dying or being maimed for life because of unroadworthy vehicles or reckless driving by the informal ‘taxi’ operators.
The need was expressed for strict regulations to curb the carnage.
But while the new Act is certainly noble in its intentions, one suspects it will not bring about any meaningful change – for various reasons.
It is all good and well introducing well-meaning regulations on paper, but if it is impractical to execute, little will come of it.
The most obvious dilemma is that no alternative option is offered to effectively accommodate the thousands of schoolchildren, from rural environments especially, who have to travel long distances to schools on a daily basis.
In terms of public transport systems, South Africa is ill equipped.
While every parent would prefer safer options for their children, the bakkie taxis are their only recourse at this moment in time, considering their difficult circumstances.
So they have little choice in the matter and will be forced to continue utilising this mode of transport to ferry their children to school – be it legal or not.
One must also question the capacity of the relevant authorities to police the new laws.
The thing is that, like the conventional taxi industry, the transportation of schoolchildren has developed into a business for the hundreds, if not thousands, bakkie brigade entrepreneurs.
For most it is an avenue allowing them a livelihood for their families. It is known that many operators have been expanding their fleets and it is a safe bet that they won’t take any law putting them out of business lying down.
It is clear that until the government can provide reliable, safe and accessible public transport, the new Act will remain just another paper tiger exercise.