am reminded that this lull can be a double-edged
knife as an angry hooter blares behind us"
you own a car then congratulations. Jozzi is your
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
14 million people use minibus taxis everyday
are over 120,000 officially registered Minibus
taxis on our roads
number of taxis per owner 2
number of hours taxi drivers spend daily on
the road - 8.8
of days taxi drvers work per week - 6.33
monthly kilometers driver by a taxi - 8 000km
number of passengers transported monthly per
taxi - 3161
time spent on a taxi daily - 65 minutes
passengers who prefer STAR MUSIC to the radio
number of trips per passenger per day - 2.3
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
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
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,
Q. How do you react to that?
A. No, I slow down.
Q. Tell me about South African
A. They are good drivers. When the government
told us [the motorists] to slow down on the roads,
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:
What do you like and dislike about riding in a
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
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
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
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.
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.