REALITIES BEHIND THE TAXI BUSINESS
By: Ntombizethu Gcaba
Notoriously known for its wars and conflicts amongst individuals in the same business, the taxi industry in South Africa has come a very long way. The first form of transport for black South Africans in “black communities” was the Valent.
It was a form of transport from the communities to the train stations. Being denied permits and harassed by police, the taxi business is one of those things that black South Africans can be proud to have started all on their own.
This has become a business that is fast growing with remarkable financial benefits for not only the owner but driver as well.
It is not a complicated business to start, but not everyone can get into the business.
It helps to have connections and knowing the right people. Criticized multiple times for the way the business is conducted and the way in which it operates, the industry continues to be a high necessity for South Africans.
“While I was still working for Telkom, I fell in love with the taxi business, I wanted better money (fast cash),” says Vukani Gumede, a former taxi owner.
“So I saved up with the money I got from Telkom and bought my first kombi (taxi).”
Wars and conflict would erupt amongst taxi owners; disagreements revolved around routes and the business itself, ways the business should be handled and measures to be taken. Many have said that the taxi industry lacks professionalism and people directly affected by the outcomes of the conflicts didn’t really know what legal measures to take when they lost a loved one to this war and conflict.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom. A lot has changed in the taxi business since 1994. “Taxis were not allowed in white communities like the Bluff. Residents would complain about the noise our taxis made,” said taxi owner Enock Shezi. But today taxis are allowed in the furthest parts of “white communities”.
People from all races find this form of transport as a convenient necessity. Simunye Taxi Owners from Toti made a joint business, joining their taxis and sharing profits evenly, something that is very rare in this form of business.
With some negative backlash and stereotypes of the business, there is some positivity to it. The taxi business has created employment for thousands of people. “Though not a permanent dream of mine, driving a taxi helps me send money to my family which depends on me,” says Zamo Zuma, a taxi driver.
From having an estimated number of approximately 8 000 taxis registered around 1994, the industry has strived in its ventures. With as much as 200 000 more registered taxis post a new democratic South Africa, the business has helped fight unemployment in the country.
An inexpensive and accessible alternative to the public, this industry has helped many South Africans from the urban areas and the deepest parts of the rural areas, with a more affordable mode of transport