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Offbeat 18 July 2014

In fact, my experience of taxis is that they are fairly decent, even the one that had live football on the driver-side television monitor.

I like the idea of civil liberty, not the kind of thing where I have the freedom to carry a gun like Americans, in case the government decides to become tyrannous, but the freedom to do what I want within reason, for instance walking back home from the pub, about 800 meters from my spot.
However the fact that I have been mugged a couple of times on the way back places my urge for civil liberty in the realm of extreme, possibly suicidal, optimism. Civil liberty is not challenged by government in my case. It is threatened by boys out after dark, looking for mobile phones and wallets to fund a weekend in the other pub in the Tauben Glen shopping centre, the one for the youngsters.
The last time it happened was with a knife. I grabbed the guy’s knife hand, not wanting to find out if he would use the blade or not. I thought there would be punches, but I only got bitten for my pains.
For a few days after that I carried a rock in my hand, but didn’t feel safe at all with it, in spite of the fact that people crossed the road to get out of my way. What if I missed? What if I caused an injury so severe I ended up in the police cells as punishment for defending myself from a mugger’s intent?
Safety in the neighbourhood is an issue. I am not the only one to be mugged, and a couple of cars have been broken into. Unfortunately the discussions in the pub don’t lead to much.
The idea of a security company to patrol the problem road hasn’t happened. Lighting the parking area hasn’t stopped the car break-ins, and won’t stop the opportunism along the road home. The old guy across the road has a different solution. He walks back before sunset. I don’t like that much. It would mean I would have to start swallowing my beers before close of work ended and I would have to be home before bedtime, the way the boy muggers should be. I found my civil liberty elsewhere, in the form of taxis, those ones with the number on the side that charge ten dollars to take you almost anywhere.
It’s not a particularly bad solution. If the rest of town is to be believed, I can die in the comfort of a car seat instead of at the hands of a knife-wielding mugger, maybe even be buried with my cellphone, though I doubt there is mobile coverage in heaven, let alone Facebook.
Readers of this column will know that I am challenged to believe anything, especially not something that everyone else believes or thinks I should believe. Although taxis are believed to be worse than a plague of locusts, and I have visual evidence of poor driving and experience of their accidents, I do not believe they are all bad.
In fact, my experience of taxis is that they are fairly decent, even the one that had live football on the driver-side television monitor.
The trick to finding out about them is to talk to the drivers. Although they are demonised, and you would half expect the drivers to wear hats that cover their horns, they are actually human. They struggle with their occupations, finding enough fares. They are under pressure to earn, if not from owners who employ them, then due to the cost of living, if they own their own cabs.
They are also terrified of criminals who rob and hijack them, and I have seen with my own eyes the predatory looks of the potentially dangerous fares that cause them to lock their doors and pull away.
In short, most taxi drivers are human, and not the fearsome things that they are made out to be. Just some of them are dangerous drivers.
Perhaps they should be reassessed.
Without taxis, Namibia’s economy would probably slow down to walking pace. We would have to rely on buses, and I can’t imagine one of those that would stop for me at eight-thirty after a beery evening.
The new point system will bring better driving for everyone, but it probably won’t change the dark feelings that many have towards them. There is however a different way of looking at things. Instead of giving taxis room to drive badly, it might be worth driving in a way that gives them room to do their jobs.

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