Mzansi's number one taxi driver

By Drum Digital
08 December 2010

THE BACKDROP of smokyblue mountains, the sound of water flowing down a slope and an abundance of beautiful trees all lend an air of peace to the township of Simile outside Sabie, Mpumalanga.

Hens scratch in the dirt on roads that aren’t often used by cars in this part of the world – money is scarce and things move slowly here. Suddenly a crunch of tyres on the gravel sends the fowls squawking amid a flurry of feathers. Villagers whiling away the afternoon look up as a brand-new white Toyota taxi slowly makes its way down the road.

A group of elders enjoying a beer in the shade of a tree wave as the taxi passes by. “Good luck!” they shout.

The driver salutes them and brings his vehicle to a standstill a few metres further on, patting the roof possessively as he jumps out.For Raymond Ngomane (28), this baby is more than an object that helps him earn a living – it’s his pride and joy, the thing that places him head and shoulders above other taxi drivers in the country.

He recently won the 14-seater Toyota Ses’fikile taxi worth R250 000 in a nationwide search for the country’s safest taxi driver. Raymond is the 2010 winner of the Brandhouse/Road Traffic Management Corporation No 1 Taxi Driver Campaign, and was the toast of the town at a prestigious gala dinner in Soweto.

“I was very excited,” he says. “I started calling my family back at home straight away. I really didn’t know what to do with myself!”

He’s delighted to have a taxi of his own. “I feel empowered – the taxi will obviously change my life as I will work for myself now. I also received a cheque for R5 000 which goes to the Sabie taxi association I belong to.”

In a country where taxi drivers have a reputation for being rude, impatient and reckless, it’s good to know there are people like Raymond around.

RAYMOND takes us to his two-room RDP house in Simile where he lives alone. The house may be tiny, but he’s managed to fit in a large plasma TV and home theatre system, connected to DStv. An oak wardrobe is tidily packed with his clothes and his shoes are meticulously lined up on top of it.

“I have to do everything myself,” says this single guy, putting away his neatly folded laundry and packing away his iron.

It’s clear he pays as much attention to his home as he does to his job – if there were a prize for neatest house, he’d probably win that too.

Raymond, who beat 55 000 taxi drivers across the country, has his boss at the taxi association, Willie Dakwane, to thank for the fact he entered the competition.

“He told me about the campaign and gave me the forms so I owe him a great deal. I entered the Mpumalanga round and after serious road tests I won the provincial competition on 8 October – and received a cheque for R7 500,” he says.

“After the excitement, I realised I’d have to represent Mpumalanga in the national event a month later and I was nervous.”

The national finals were held from 8 to 11 November at the Zwartkops Raceway in Tshwane, where drivers from all nine provinces competed for top position. They were put through their paces by the Toyota Advanced Driving Academy.

“On the first day we wrote a test on road signs. On day two we did extensive advanced driving tests, day and night, and on the third we learnt about ABS (automatic braking system). On the fourth day we did more advanced driving tests.”

Read the full article in DRUM of 16 December 2010

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