Dashiki Dialogues – Enemies of the people

2012-01-28 12:59

 I watched this old lady struggle to pull herself together after a diabolical encounter at a taxi terminal the other day. After hurling swear words into the air, she mastered a number of deep gasps, then muttered to herself and whomever would concur: “It’s like they all come from the same mother. Bloody swine!” She had just suffered a fool of a taxi driver.

Their quarrel was apparently sparked by the driver reneging on his commitment to drop her off at her requested destination. As she made her way, I found myself smiling in resignation. I could relate to her frustration, you know. Besides, as the saying goes: we laugh because we would otherwise cry.
However, part of the sadness that tinged my smile was the realisation that all of us present, by being quiet, were consenting to this old lady’s abuse.

The truth is that her “children of the same mother” comment was an attempt to highlight the identical bad behaviour taxi drivers seem to share – whether they ply their trade in the Cape, Limpopo or Gauteng.

We have all suffered or witnessed bad behaviour from taxi drivers. Think about Nwabisa Ngcukana, who was stripped and sexually molested at a taxi rank for wearing a miniskirt. And remember the traffic officer who was assaulted while trying to arrest a taxi driver for contravening the conditions of his permit?

Then there were the 36 taxi drivers who appeared in the Seshego Magistrates Court on charges of assault and kidnapping of three teenagers. We aren’t talking about saints here.

On the flip side, I must point out my respect for the founders of this industry. During the struggle for economic freedom, their efforts laid the foundation for black economic empowerment. Today we talk of black-owned airlines simply because these captains of commerce managed to fill the gap for commuters neglected by a racist government.

Imagine all those breadwinners across the black experience who would otherwise not have made it to work – a simple yet vital trip that made livelihoods possible for the poorest of the poor.

This background makes the recalcitrant lot that assault and verbally abuse commuters, enemies of the people. How else could we view them?

Apt rigorous treatment must be meted out to them. Period. A fellow commuter once advised a more laissez-faire approach: “To be a taxi driver is not an occupation, but a bad state of mind.” But such a dialogue is for people bent on wearing dirty dashikis.

»?Follow me Twitter @Percy_Mabandu

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