February 2002
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Lord, I got to keep on moving… by Asaf Fialkov

"I am reminded that this lull can be a double-edged knife as an angry hooter blares behind us"

If you own a car then congratulations. Jozzi is your playground.
If you don't then you might find yourself in a very South African place: Crowded in with 18 others in a minibus taxi, opening and closing a sliding door, counting change and shouting 'Short left!'. It's not so bad. In 1995-8 traveling by minibus taxi to school and then college made sense: Taxis were flexible and cheap. Of course once I got my own set of wheels, I took a different route. But taxis remain the only way of transport for many South Africans.
The world of taxi transportation is chaotic by its very nature: routes are changed according to traffic, stops are made on the fly and gaps are taken quickly.
The industry operates by its own set of rules and has its own political system, lingo, and etiquette. The feeling inside a taxi is unique.

Main Road, Melville

Some Fact
-Over 14 million people use minibus taxis everyday
-There are over 120,000 officially registered Minibus taxis on our roads
-Average number of taxis per owner 2
-Average number of hours taxi drivers spend daily on the road - 8.8
-Number of days taxi drvers work per week - 6.33
-Average monthly kilometers driver by a taxi - 8 000km
-Ave. number of passengers transported monthly per taxi - 3161
Total time spent on a taxi daily - 65 minutes
-% of passengers who prefer STAR MUSIC to the radio - 64%
-Ave. number of trips per passenger per day - 2.3

Facts Supplied by comutanet.............

A taxi is stopping on the corner for a lady and a young school child. Perfect -The front seat is empty. I hustle over and get in. The driver is a man that is as simple and unpolished as they come. As we get moving I try to explain my situation. A lively conversation stops at the back and listens interestedly. My explanation sounds long and awkward even to my own ears. He just replies 'No' and carries on driving. His pointy hat thwarts me. A respectful silence, but soon the lively conversation starts again. The Jo'burg sky is cloudy and drizzly- perfect taxi riding weather. Inside there is a disconnected feeling of peace that doesn't belong to the tense, peak-hour show reel that is passing us by. I am reminded that this lull can be a double-edged knife as an angry hooter blares behind us. The maneuvers are not all synchronized. Not all is well.

A driver's perspective: Joel Patrick

Q. What is the best thing about being a taxi driver?
A. I'm able to support my family.

Q. Do you make enough to support your family?
A. It's not enough but there's no [other] job. For the situation it's enough.

Q If I had a taxi, I could start riding your route and picking up customers?
A No you can't. First thing, you go to the association and negotiate a fee. It is R2000 every year.

Q. Do you think the government should handle the taxi industry?
A.I think it is better because we will get the right pay, leave pay and better hours.

Q. What do you think is the most important rule on the road?
A. Service your car and drive slow.

Q. What is the best driving music?
A. Gospel.

Q. Has anyone ever asked you to slow down?
A. Yes sometimes they do. In the morning traffic I sometimes go up to 80 and the people say 'Hey, slow down'.

Q. How do you react to that?
A. No, I slow down.

Q. Tell me about South African drivers,
A. They are good drivers. When the government told us [the motorists] to slow down on the roads, they did.

Q. What is the funniest thing that you have seen in a taxi?
A. The one day there was a woman looking at me in the rear view and smiling so I showed her a sticker behind my seat that said I was married…

The commuter's perspective: Joyce Makasi

Q. What do you like and dislike about riding in a taxi?
A. What I like is that I don't have to wait; I can get off at any time. My dislikes are that sometimes drivers are not presentable and have an attitude.

Q. How do you find the driving of the drivers?
A. It varies. Just like in any profession, there are people that are passionate about what they do and people that are in it for the money.

Q. Tell me about the different personalities of the taxi drivers.
A. You get nice people who will greet you before you get in, play nice music, and listen to you when you ask them to tone it down. Then there are people who will give you the 'f' word.

Q. Tell me about some of the conversations you hear inside taxis.
A. You get all sorts. Ranging from politics to sewerage. You get some interesting ones…

Q. Do you ever get involved?
A. I'm very talkative. In fact sometimes I will start the conversation (laughs).

Q. Where is the best seat in the taxi?
A. The third row. In case of an accident you are protected from all sides. It's the best from a safety point of view.

A taxi rank in Sandton

I haven't even told Ephraim that I am writing a story and he's interviewing me. Ephraim is a commuter and he is story in himself. He thinks that the taxi industry has not moved forward enough. The government should move in and compete. Privatization? The taxi owners will resist it, he says, because they don't want to be taxed on earnings. The government doesn't really want to privatize because it will inherit too many problems - and that's why they're planning the Metro Rail.
I could not get hold of the government to dispute any of this.

The seat of a taxi is a perspective of an everyday man and woman. The passengers inside are unified by the shared ride, the limited space and the day's work that is behind them. The ride back home is silent.
I realise that to reach my destination safely is more important than owning a car.

Taxi etiquette.

There are many hand signals to hail a taxi such as the index finger pointing upwards (Town), a finger pointing to either side and down and four fingers up (Fourways). Know your route's signals.

To get out of a moving taxi you can say 'Robot, please' or 'short left' (please stop at the next road to the left). That one is recommended for experts only. Put your own style into it and see what results you can get. Let the driver know as soon as possible.

If you feel the driver is pulling some dodgy maneuvers, then politely ask him to slow it down.

Try not to pay your fare with a R200 note.