FRANCISTOWN: A senior policeman in Francistown has denied allegations that his officers have failed to deal with pirate taxi and combi operators because they are involved in the illegal business.
The deputy divisional traffic officer north, Senior Superintendent Pelontle Kesupile dismissed the allegations as untrue describing them as a deliberate campaign to tarnish the image of the police. “I challenge anyone to come forward with information that will implicate the police for operating Mechova to come forward to my office because I will protect their identities. It is my duty to protect whistle blowers because the problem of Mechova is giving us a headache,” said Kesupile.
Recently, the traffic police branch in Francistown launched ‘Operation Francistown Blue’, which netted 18 taxis operating without permits. The taxis are popularly known as ‘Mechova’. After the raid, some of the pirate operators told Mmegi that they are emulating police officers who own the majority of illegal taxis and combis. One operator who preferred anonymity for fear of a backlash said that some police officers have hired drivers to operate their illegal taxis.
Another combi operator, Willy Mololwane, who has been in the business legally since 1999 said some police officers own Mechova. This has resulted in licenced operators quitting because they were not making any profits, he said.
“A lot of Batswana have lost jobs because this industry is no longer profitable,” said Mololwane. He asserted that most of them are reluctant to report the police officers for fear of victimisation.
A member of Francistown Truck and Taxi Association and chairperson of Francistown/Ramokgwebana route, Debby Nyathi was reluctant to comment on the matter. “As an association, we want our members to bring tangible evidence before we can forward the matter to relevant authorities for appropriate action,” he said. He added that they do not want to dwell on speculation.
“We do not deny that there are a lot of Mechovas in Francistown, but if it is true that the police are also involved, then there is no way this problem can be solved. We have lost a lot of business because of these illegal operators and it’s high time this problem is dealt with,” he said.
Nyathi said they recently reported the problem, which seems to be spiralling out of control, to the MP for Francistown East Billy Buti.
The MP confirmed to Mmegi that some transport operators came to his office to report the matter. He said that he would take the matter to the relevant authorities for an amicable and permanent solution.