South Africa’s crazy taxi drivers
By Hassan Isilow
Mini-bus taxis are one of the major sources of transport in Cape Town, but loud music, hooting and shouting touts seem to accompany it permanently, much to the aggravation of fellow road users. Boarding a taxi from Bellville to Cape Town feels like you have entered a disco. The music is usually unbearably loud and as if that is not bad enough, the taxi touts never keep their mouths shut for a second.
I’m standing outside the Boston centre in Bellville, waiting for a taxi to Cape Town, when I hear a man yelling out, “Kap-kap…Cape, kaptyown,” meaning Cape Town – this is how taxi touts here pronounce it. The taxi tout continues to persuade us to board his taxi, “Brotha come, come sister. We are going now.”
As I enter the taxi, I spot six young high school students dancing and whistling to the tune of the loud music pouring out of the huge speakers. They seem to be enjoying the ride, but mature passengers inside the van are irritated with the noise. Two passengers, who were having a conversation in the taxi, tell the driver to reduce the volume of his music, but their efforts sinks like a stone in the sea. The driver refuses.
“Eish, this driver is not seriaas (serious), I can not even converse with my friend in this taxi. The music is so loud, oh!” an elderly female passenger complains. “I feel the music beating right in my veins. This is not good for my health,” she adds.
Ten minutes into our journey, the taxi tout asks for transport fare. “Brotha, where?” implying where are you going. “Cape Town,” I reply and give him a R20 note. He does not return my R10 change. When I ask for my change, the taxi tout ignores me.
An elderly woman seated next to me says that’s the character of taxi touts – they are quick to ask for transport fare, but reluctant to give back change. She says that’s how taxi touts cheat unsuspecting passengers, especially tourists and visitors to the region.
As we reach another spot where taxis pick up passengers in Parow, the taxi tout, starts shouting at the top of his lungs, “Kap-kap…Cape, kaptyown.” By now I feel as if I could have bust an ear drum, but the tout does not care. All he cares about is getting more passengers and making more money.
After all this noise, the taxi tout gets only two passengers. As another taxi van attempts to bypass us, we drive towards Maitland. A race comparable to a motoring sport rally ensures. The taxi drivers go bumber to bumper till we reach the Maitland taxi rank. I then introduce myself to the driver as a journalist, doing a feature story about the taxi industry in Cape Town . I ask him, why he was racing at such a speed, with out considering the safety of passengers.
“The taxi industry has become very competitive nowadays. There are many taxis on the road, yet our boss – the taxi owner – wants a fixed amount of money everyday. He doesn’t care whether you got passengers or not. All he needs is his money,” the taxi driver who only identifies himself as Simon, tells me. Simon drives fast so as to make more trips. “Our target is to make more trips so we can make more money,” he relates before starting his engine to continue with his journey.
Taxi drivers in Western Cape are a crazy lot. They indicate right, but will turn left once they see a passenger. During heavy traffic, some of these drivers will think nothing of even driving on the pavement to get around faster. It is also common to see these taxi drivers stopping their vans at traffic lights and getting out to chat with their colleagues.
Gary Ronald, spokesperson of the Automobile Association (AA), says this is very risky behaviour which puts the lives of passengers and other road users at risk. “There is a need for regular sensitisation of taxi drivers and other reckless motorists,” says Garry and after my latest experience, I could not agree more.