Enough taxi terror

2010-11-06 15:54

Last week I shouted at a taxi driver for the first time in years. I’d reached boiling point after years of repressed anger.

I have been in a taxi where the driver has driven in the oncoming traffic lane and another that skipped a red robot while I was sitting in the front seat.

I have been in yet another where the driver asked the commuters on a trip from Rustenburg to ­Johannesburg for a nail clipper so that he could fix something in the engine.

I have been in one where the driver would have slept behind the wheel had my mother’s ­constant nagging not forced him to pull up by the side of the road and have a smoke.

I’m not new to the danger. So what was it that tripped my cable?

Was it when this particular driver drove on at a busy intersection during morning traffic even though the light was red?

Or was it when I realised that the cars that had right of way were already moving?

Or was it when I saw that my side of the taxi would feel the full force of the blow had any of the cars hit us?

I think it was his calm ­demeanour that brought forth the behemoth in me.

I questioned him loudly, in the presence of stunned commuters, as to how he could call out someone else’s mistakes when it was obviously him who was putting everyone else in danger.

“Brother, why did you cross a red robot?” I shouted in stutter-laden Setswana, still reeling from the shock.

Then he said the words that rendered my morning mission meaningless.

“I can’t understand you,” he said in isiZulu.

I’m not much of a Zulu-speaker, but that sentence I understood, so I just positioned a stark frown on my face for the rest of the journey.

I realise this experience is ­only a tiny pimple on the ­debilitating acne that is the ­Johannesburg taxi industry on the face of Gauteng’s roads, but it matters.

People have died, had their legs crushed, and their brains scattered on tarmac all because of an impatient taxi driver in a hurry to get nowhere quickly.

And yes, we have to call Jozi taxi drivers to account for this tendency to put not only their lives but everyone else’s life around them in danger.

I say Jozi taxi drivers because I have scarcely experienced this attitude in the North West ­township I’m from.

There, we are able to get seats without wondering who we should leave our possessions to.

And I understand it is always dangerous and unfair to make a heterogeneous group of people into a homogeneous menace.

However, my perception comes from 23 years of being a taxi commuter, six of those in Johannesburg.

I have seen the hazard a ­significant number of these ­drivers constitute.

I also realise that the drivers cannot be blamed for the condition of the taxis as can the taxi owners (that’s a topic for another day).

And this is the point where I’d like to highlight the group of people that needs to stop ­adding to the problem of unruly drivers: we the commuters.

We as commuters cannot let some misplaced idea of politeness, or crippling fear silence us on the way to our deaths.

We need to find a way to act as a collective, so that it is not just a lone voice in the back seat of a taxi holding the driver ­accountable for his wayward ways, but a collective.

If that means joining taxi commuter associations, we need to do it.

I need to do it. I, as a taxi commuter, need to become the change I want to see.

It must become an anomaly to find a taxi without a door ­handle or a working door for goodness sakes!

We must refuse to get into these taxis; we should rather wait for a decent one for as long as is reasonable.

We seem to be blind to the notion that we have the right to choose whether or not we will get into a taxi.

We must not let our impatience to get seats be our ruin.

Have we become so docile that an industry that needs us as much as we need them has become the master and we, the slaves?

» Check out Moaisi’s blog post on the matter at www.citypress.co.za under the heading #randomtweet: 7 (random) tips for the aspiring Jozi taxi driver

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