Makkah’s minibus drivers hit hard by transport ban
More than 200 Saudi minibus drivers in Makkah have called on the authorities to lift a decision banning them from transporting passengers, including pilgrims, considering their poor financial condition. They said the ban has hit them hard because they have lost their livelihood.
The drivers’ joint campaign came after the Traffic Department decided to seize minibuses operating as private taxis for 15 days and fine their drivers SR1,000 if found violating the rule. The ban was imposed before the Haj season and since then the drivers have become jobless.
The drivers assembled in Sharaieya, east Makkah, where the seized vehicles are kept by the authorities. A number of patrol police vans cordoned off the area to prevent possible violence.
“We have been doing this job for nearly 40 years,” said one driver. Many of the drivers do not know any other job and have purchased their vehicles on installments. The ban has not only affected the payment of installments but also the payment of rent and family expenses, he added.
“We are facing a big problem because of the ban,” said Ahmed Saleh, who was driving passengers in Makkah for the last 30 years. “Most of the drivers belong to the limited income group and we don’t have any other source of income,” he said, asking the authorities to lift the ban immediately.
Ali Al-Shahri said the affected Saudi drivers were transporting passengers inside Makkah as well as between the holy city and Jeddah, Madinah and Taif. “The Traffic Department has now blocked our only source of income. We have sent petitions to the relevant authorities to consider our case.”
Muraished Al-Qarihi said: “The ban has affected a large number of Saudi drivers and their families. Traffic officers seize our buses for 15 days and impose a SR1,000 fine for transporting passengers. This has further complicated our lives as we have already been struggling to make ends meet.”
Onaiber Mueti said many of the affected drivers are unable to pay their monthly installments to car companies because of the ban. “We hope the authorities would study our case sympathetically and lift the ban as quickly as possible to end our suffering.”
Col. Talaat Al-Mansouri, director of traffic in Makkah, said: “We are only an executive authority and we have to implement the traffic rules and regulations. The owners of minibuses have violated the law by operating as private taxis. This is unacceptable.”
He added: “We have informed these drivers beforehand that they have the right to change their license from private to public transport. But none of them approached the Transport Ministry’s office to change the license. This shows they are not serious in their demand,” he added.
Al-Mansouri said his department has presented a proposal to the governorate to solve the problem of drivers and save them from fines, considering their situation. He urged drivers not to assemble again to press their demand because such gatherings violate the Interior Ministry’s regulations to maintain public order.