A ride to remember: this Joburg taxi driver helped deliver a baby in the backseat of his car

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Taxify driver Maqawe Mpabanga stepped in to help when his passenger went into labour and gave birth in the backseat of his vehicle. (PHOTO: SUPPLIED)
Taxify driver Maqawe Mpabanga stepped in to help when his passenger went into labour and gave birth in the backseat of his vehicle. (PHOTO: SUPPLIED)

What was supposed to be a regular drop-and-go situation for taxi driver Maqawe “Mike” Mpabanga turned into the ride of his life after a passenger went into labour on the back seat of his vehicle. 

Mike was forced to pull over to help the woman deliver her baby. “It was such an extraordinary experience,” he tells YOU. Now the baby’s parents have named her in honour of the hero driver.

Forty-three-year-old Mike from Johannesburg started his own transport business in 2013 by doing transfers and tours for international study groups. He found himself in a jam when lockdown hit last year and everything came to a standstill. To support his family, the father of two signed up to be a driver for e-hailing service Taxify. 

He’d been working for the service for a few months when he got the call that would change his life. It was just after 9pm and after a long day’s work, Mike almost didn’t respond to the request. “But I also knew that a request at that hour might mean someone is desperate or really needs a lift somewhere,” he says. 

And so he made his way to do one last pick-up for the night at an address in Diepsloot. 

'Being in a position to help someone is truly a gift from God.'
Maqawe Mpabanga

The client, a woman dressed in a long winter coat, was helped into the car by her husband before he went back into their home. The woman, who was clearly heavily pregnant, seemed distressed. 

Mike struck up a conversation with her on the way and learnt she was due to give birth that day. The woman, who he came to learn was named Mapula Shai, worked as a domestic helper and became the breadwinner in the family after her husband lost his job as a driver due to the pandemic.

Mapula couldn’t make her way to the hospital any earlier as she’d been working all day. She also couldn’t afford the total cost of the trip to the hospital, which was in Florida, but still Mike offered to get her there.

He made his way to the hospital as fast and as safely as he could but on the way, Mapula started groaning. When she told him the baby was coming, he sped up, but the baby simply couldn’t wait.

“Mapula shouted from the back, ‘Please stop the car, my baby is going to fall’,” Mike recalls. With no experience or training for such a situation, he pulled the car over and something instinctively kicked in – as overwhelmed as he was, he knew he had to step up. 

He went to the back seat and caught the baby just as Mapula delivered her. “The little baby was crying, and I placed her on her mother’s tummy,” he recalls. “I got back into the driver’s seat, and we made our way on the last stretch to the hospital where she got the assistance she needed.” 

Mike left the hospital to make his way home before curfew but contacted Mapula’s husband, Justice, to let him know what had happened. He had stayed at home to care for the couple’s firstborn daughter. 

Mike proudly poses with little Nomaqawe, her paren
Mike proudly poses with little Nomaqawe, her parents Mapula and Justice and their older daughter. (PHOTO: SUPPLIED)

“He was in shock, but also grateful for the good news that his wife and child were both healthy.” They exchanged details and Mike asked him to let them know when mom and daughter were safely at home.

A few days later, the family invited him over to meet the little girl he had helped bring into the world. “I felt such pride when they asked me to name the baby girl,” he says with a smile. “My name, ‘Maqawe’, means hero, so I decided to give her the female version of my name, ‘Nomaqawe’ – meaning heroine.” 

Through this experience, Mike says he’s learnt a newfound respect and appreciation for mothers and what they endure during childbirth. Now he hopes to help Mapula’s husband find work to support their now family of four. 

“Helping the next person costs nothing, it wasn’t a coincidence that I took their request for a ride that night,” Mike says. “Being in a position to help someone is truly a gift from God.”

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