Tensions heighten between big and small taxi drivers in Ouarzazate

Tensions heighten between big and small taxi drivers in Ouarzazate

Fatima Outghratine was thrilled that she could take a five-dirham taxi ride from Tabount to the souq in Ouarzazate on Sunday.
Before the small taxis began striking Dec. 21, Outghratine, a mother of six, had to take a big taxi to Ouarzazate and either walk or take a four-dirham small taxi to the souq, about four kilometers away.
Outghratine said she supports the big taxi drivers’ decision to work in Ouarzazate.
“I hope it will stay this way because they’re taking us from here (Tabount) to the souq for five dirhams, and that’s great,’’ she said.
The feud between the big and small taxis began three weeks ago when grand taxi drivers began picking up fares in Ouarzazate.
By law, the grand taxis are required to work outside Ouarzazate, but they decided to move into the city because they said they don’t make money working primarily in Tabount and other areas.
The small taxi drivers protested by pulling their 181 fleet of taxis off the streets and blocking major intersections in the city, primarily at noon and 6 p.m. every day.
The big taxi drivers took advantage of the situation and began picking up fares in Ouarzazate and nearby areas including Aid Kadif, Tamassinte and Ihay Imohamady.
Elyamani Hamid, who drives a big taxi, said big taxis don’t make much money to support their family by just working in Tabount.
“We just want our right of working, nothing else,’’ he said. “We hope the small drivers will understand the need to work together and eventually end the strike.’’
By not working, the small taxi drivers are hurting their families, he said.
But the small taxi drivers said they will not end the strike until they obtain their exclusive rights to work in the city. The big taxi drivers have no right to work in Ouarzazate, said Mhamdi Abesalam, general secretary of the syndicate of small taxis in Ouarzazate.
Small taxis have lost nearly 30,000 dirhams in the last three weeks, he said Saturday during a noon-time demonstration near the Centre of Regional Security, where more than a dozen small taxis blocked the street.
Last week, the vice minister of interior and some security officials met with big taxi drivers, but the issue is still not resolved, Abesalam said.
Small taxi drivers, he said, will continue their strike until they achieve their rights.
Abesalam said some small taxi drivers have been threatened with knives, but local authorities have done nothing about it. Some big taxi drivers have also complained that people throw rocks at their cars when they drive through certain neighborhoods.
Some big taxi drivers say it’s tough working in other cities such as Marrakesh, Tinghir and Kelaat Mgouna because they always have to wait their turn to fill up.
The number of big taxis working in Ouarzazate has increased from 120 to 300 in the last two years, said Mohamed Moussa, who drives a big taxi.
The majority of those taxis were working between Ouarzazate region, Tinghir and Marrakesh, he said. The growing number of taxis working in the region makes business tough for Ouarzazate drivers, he said.
The big taxi drivers said they had no choice, but to begin picking up fares in the city of Ouarzazate.
The strike is taking a toll on residents because there’s not enough taxis on the streets, so some people end up walking everywhere. Some big taxi drivers are not familiar with city neighborhoods. They often refuse to take some passengers to certain areas.
Some residents prefer the big taxis because they are cheaper. Grand taxis charge three dirhams during the day and four dirhams at night, the same fare they charge for the trip between Tabount and Ouarzazate.
Zineb Laghfiri, who lives in Lirak, said she hopes the strike ends soon because she’s tired of waiting for big taxis to fill six seats before they take her certain places. Before the strike, Laghfiri said she took four small taxis a day to the center.
Now, she is sometimes late for some appointments because she has to wait for big taxi to fill up.
Khalid Elhafidy, who lives in Douar Chams neighborhood, said he’s often late for work at CLA Studio in Tamassinte because the big taxi drivers won’t take one passenger to the area. They want to fill six seats, he said.
“The situation is not only affecting the small taxi drivers, but it’s affecting us,’’ he said.
Nazha Amri prefers the grand taxis because it’s cheaper—-three dirhams compared to four dirhams for a small taxi. Before the strike, small taxi drivers charged doubled to take her to Ihay Imohamady.
“Before this problem started between the grand taxis and the petit taxis, I was taking the petit taxi because I had to,’’ she said. “But now I take the grand taxi because it’s better.’’
Soukaina Bouihi, Hassan Ouyahia, Hafssa Ait Tabamoute, Mohammed Lokouz and Abdelmoula Mdiouani contributed to this report.

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About The Author

Hassan Ouyahia

Hassan Ouyahia was born in 1991 in Ouarzazate. He graduated in July 2013 from the Polydisciplinary Faculty of Ouarzazate, he was majoring in Applied Foreign Languages. Currently, he works with a travel agency, he organises tours around Morocco. He loves traveling, and exploring new places as well as writing about these places. Hassan is an active member in many local associations, Space For Future in one them, It is supervised by the Democratic League Federation of Women rights. Moreover, he is a citizen journalist with Ouarzazate eNews. He believes that journalism can make a change in the community.