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By Hein Kaiser


Life’s a ride: Joburg minibus taxi driver talks about his job

A glimpse into the South African taxi industry.

Road hogs, upstream drivers, what the… Taxi drivers have the uncanny ability to provoke expletives no one would ordinarily use in polite company in traffic.

Yet at a stop, or a load-shed intersection, it’s usually taxi drivers who wave frustrated motorists into a gap they’ve made to help them.

Apart from being considered moving violations, minibus taxis support millions of South Africans. 

Every taxi rank, makeshift or formal, has at least one little pavement spaza or, where there’s more traffic, cast-iron pots on open fires, mini sit-and-eat and takeaway caravans feed passengers and drivers.

The taxi industry doesn’t have to demand respect because it fulfils a function that’s critical to our economy.

“But after Covid, things have been much quieter,” says a driver who wants to be known only as Sibusiso.

The 41 year old has been driving a taxi for his brother’s business for 11 years and is proud of his profession.

“There are fewer passengers. I think it had a lot to do with many companies closing down and how many people are unemployed in South Africa at the moment,” he says.

His cab carries 14 passengers and he spends his 12-hour working day ferrying people between Alexandra, Balfour Park and Lilian Ngoyi Street (formerly Bree Street) in Johannesburg.

ALSO READ: Road map to the future: A formalised minibus taxi industry?

Music and motion

Sibusiso has been driving the same vehicle since he carried his first load of passengers and has had it kitted out to his liking. In the boot, a giant sub-woofer powers a sound system that can rival any popcorn-clattering exhaust, and giant speakers line the ceiling above the seating. 

He says the music keeps him going.

But there are more tricks to the trade than keeping your spirits up. Driv- ers modify their exhausts and fuel lines are narrowed to feed through less fuel.

“This way, I can limit my petrol spend to about R500 a day.” 

Passengers pay R16 each from Alexandra to Balfour Park and the onward trip to Lilian Ngoyi Street is another R17. 

Sibusiso then takes out a hubcap from the boot. He removes all four at the end of each day and locks them up before reattaching them the next day, because thieves find them irresistible.

He has modified his rear and front lights and replaced his grille with a bulkier and shinier front end. 

“We call it a blesser,” he says adding that the modifications have been excellent for business, and attract a fuller load than taxis who did not invest in them.

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