I heart Jozi – Seriously, a taxi airline?

2011-09-21 07:25

The SA National Taxi Council (Santaco) and the local taxi industry as a whole are like that token uncle in the family: stubborn as a mule and always finding a way to have us all hanging our heads in shame by the end of the party.

When crisis strikes he never forgets how, as the oldest brother, he has the last say.

But the night before the funeral, countless Black Label quarts render him useless and absent by the graveside the next day.

The kids love him. They poke at his belly until he awakens in a mad rage, dampened by a babalaas like no other.

Later, he’s sitting before a captive audience of young eyes as he revels in stories of how he used to charm the ladies and put the young boys in their place.

And on the first Sunday of the year, he’s the first one up and washed, dressed to the nines and leaving a trail of cheap cologne all the way to the front row at church.

For decades South Africans have used taxis as their primary means of transport.

Ours is a love-hate relationship where we can’t afford to bite the hand that feeds us, but we certainly reserve the right to demand for the hand to be clean every now and then and the food to be somewhat nutritious.

When the taxi union conceptually launched their new airline service I was not amused ... although I wanted to be.

It should have been a great moment, where the industry that has been such a major part of our lives, grows and takes on new challenges. I should be proud to see an industry of entrepreneurs shine and fly high.

But I’m not.

On the morning of the Santaco Airlines launch, I had been standing in a long queue at the Bree Street Taxi Rank while trying hard not to catch some unknown airborne disease from just breathing in the putrid air.

I said a silent prayer as the taxi slowly crawled out onto the streets with no guarantee that this tattered mobile metal box would get me to work on time.

That very morning, the taxi driver took an “alternative” route as soon as he saw the metro police ahead and then refused to drop his passengers off at their correct stops.

Having to experience the sheer disregard and disrespect, the taxi industry has shown to the millions of commuters who pay for this shoddy service each day.

It makes it hard for me to imagine that an airline linked to an industry which shows sheer disrespect for commuters would meet the standard.

My friend says it’s much like a multinational corporation that works its employees to the bone in sub-standard employment conditions but still continues to expand in order to feed the ever-demanding bottom line.

So, our dear uncle has landed a new job, a great opportunity with a chance at real success but he’s really going to have to work hard to convince the rest of the family that he’ll stay employed ... this time.

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