A ferry around Melville's streets

2015-09-24 07:34
(Adam Wakefield, News24)

(Adam Wakefield, News24)

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Johannesburg - Among the estimated 20 e-tuktuks travelling on the roads of Melville and surrounding suburbs, one is driven by 38-year-old Franklin Gubudu.

Originally from the village of Chinhoyi in northern Zimbabwe, the former HIV/Aids councillor has been working for e-tuktuk since February 2013.

"I've been here [in South Africa] for the past three years. The maximum speed on the speedometer is 80. I haven't driven to 80 myself. I usually drive at 60 and the most I have gone for is 70," he tells News24 as we move through the back roads of Melville, Johannesburg.

Franklin's day during the working week is tied to a strict schedule. His first pick up is the same person Monday to Friday at 06:00, with other regular clients filling his schedule to around 09:00.

Between 09:00 and 13:00, he does "random trips" and after 13:00, he meets the school children who are regulars.

Four are from Parktown Girls High School and two from Milpark Primary School. After that, he does random pick-ups.

In total, Franklin puts the number of regulars during the week at eight. He also works on Saturdays, "which is a different story", and takes Sunday off.

Asked how many trips he makes a day, Franklin pauses briefly before saying he does more than 20 a day.

"My day is quite long. I do 16 hours sometimes, 14 hours in a day," he says as we slowly turn the corner into a street that takes you into the leafy suburb of Emmarentia, the breeze passing through the tuk tuk as we move.

Having been with e-tuktuk for more than two years, Franklin reckons he'll own his second tuktuk by year end, having already paid off the one he is presently driving.

"I work with them [e-tuktuk]. I'm still pretty much part of them. I've paid off my car already," he says, adding that because he carries the e-tuktuk brand name, he uses their routes and call centre.

"I pay them a nominal fee for those services, but whatever I make during the day comes to me. I'm looking at expanding. By the end of this year, I should have a second car. I should have had one already but some things came up that stopped that."

Franklin says he enjoys what he does most of the time, beyond the times when matters are out of his control.

"I think that if you are organised, like really organised, you don't struggle about being on time from one client to another except when you have problems, like traffic and that, which is not in your control," he says.

He says he has had some weird clients, especially those who've had too much to drink, with the e-tuktuks ceasing operations at 23:00.

"You must remember it is a mode of transport. Some people think you can go and buy them food, buy them booze, go into shops and bring it to them, then they pay you," Franklin says with a hint of a smile.

"Sometimes you get people who say 'I don't see my keys' they're so drunk. 'Would you mind checking for my keys for me?' 'Would you mind opening the gate for me?' and things like that. No."

The journey comes to an end at the e-tuktuk offices, and after being thanked for his time, Franklin slips back onto the road on the way to his next pick-up.

His tuktuk disappears down the road, a ferry in the veins of Melville's streets, drifting from place to place.

Read more on:    johannesburg

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