The Tyranny of Taxis


It’s 8:45 am in the morning. Pick any morning, they’re all the same to me. I am driving down the N2 towards my workplace, Equal Education in Khayelitsha.

Pause for a second. If you are anything like the most people I talk to about my job, a number of thoughts will be fighting for attention in your head. Perhaps you start with wow, she works in Khayelitsha. Or maybe it is, is it safe there? Does she have to drive so far to work every day? Are there even any white people there? Yes, these are the ridiculous questions I face on a regular basis.

But back to the issue at hand. I am driving along in my medium powered car, as before, when out of my rear view mirror I see a flash of white behind me. From experience I know that this usually means trouble. A second later, the SOLID white line to my left, the hard shoulder of the road, and the lane to my right are occupied by taxis, dicing along the highway at 140+km/h. At this point, the only possible reaction is to hold onto the wheel tighter and try not to freak out. This is a daily occurrence for me.

Every time I think about changing into the fast lane, I check to see that there are no taxis in sight to force me off the road. Every day, turning right onto Landsdowne road, I wait for the taxis in the straight lane to turn right and cut me off. This is everyday practice.

But why do we, as South Africans, let this happen? Why do taxis rule the roads, and threaten the delicate balance between order and chaos, lawfulness and anarchy. I blame fear of taxis from both ourselves and the government, our traffic police, and the failure of adequate public transport. Something must be done to break the hold that the taxis have on the road.

After doing a little bit of reading, I can see that I am not the only one writing about this: has the following information in an article about driving in South Africa for visitors: “Drivers of minibuses and taxis can behave erratically, and often turn a blind eye to rules and road safety considerations”.

This article from About Africa Travel writes some entertaining tongue-in-cheek comments on the tyranny of taxis.

This blog post by Pumla Dineo Gqola provides “helpful” tips for travelling in a taxi.

And finally, Mail and Guardian writer Mpho Moshe Matheolane shares a terrifying taxi experience.

Despite all this, at the risk of sounding like a hypocrite, and maybe I am, when I drive home today I will not be taking on taxis left right and centre, as I have implied we all should. And this is the problem.

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