Motswana punctures foreign waffle with silence

The government has quietly been coaching the taxi industry in customer-care relations ahead of 2010.

The government has quietly been coaching the taxi industry in customer-care relations ahead of 2010.

The queue marshals have had a week's training in putting the customer first.

The government's "stasoft" seems to have worked. The marshals have cleaned up their language and are polite, as long as they are not hurried. Then they may revert to their past behaviour.

The taxi drivers are catching on fast too. They do not shout at and are patient with passengers. Still there are a few incorrigibles who will never change, whatever polish they acquire.

The problem is that passengers are used to the old-style drivers. They are sensitive and no matter how mildly the driver addresses them, their tempers ratchet up a notch and they shout at the man.

Some of the drivers took a hefty dose of "stasoft" and are now bullied by passengers. I was involved in a nasty incident recently when an irrational bully made our trip a misery.

Two men, one light-complexioned and the other dark, got in the front seat where they were supposed to serve as "accountants".

An "accountant" collects the fares, provides change and squares up the money angle of the trip. This frees the driver to do his job without endangering the lives of the customers. In the past, fatal accidents were attributed to drivers making change or changing music tapes while driving at high speed.

The darker man collected the money and then asked his neighbour, whitey, for his fare. The neighbour gave him the money with the rider not to bother him.

When told that the fare had risen by R1, whitey went ballistic. He did not attack the driver or the taxi association.

Instead he threatened to kill the poor accountant. He called the dark man in derogatory terms and hurled epithets at him. He vowed to make him s**t because he was a foreigner (you know the xenophobic names).

He said the foreigners had taken over his country, the jobs and the women. He said foreigners were colonising the country again and he for one was not going to stand for it.

The accountant stared straight ahead and did not answer this diatribe directed at him.

I was extremely annoyed and told the bully to tone down his language. He promised to see to me after beating up the foreigner.

I retorted that he was abusing us with his foul utterings and that the driver would sort him out.

He got off in Langlaagte. The driver then protested against my offering his services without consulting him. The poor chap does not carry a 'kierrie, heavy chain or sjambok.

The dark man, the foreigner, who had been quiet all along, then spoke in pure Setswana. He said the best way to deflate a bully was to say nothing back.

We were astounded to discover that he was a born and bred Motswana, a full South African citizen, despite his dark complexion and "foreign looks".