Now we dodge bullets, not cars at breakneck speed

There is a taxi running around with the slogan Uthini Wena painted on its back window.

A few years ago, taxis all had slogans such as: "This taxi will take you safely home" and "This taxi will take you anywhere, any time".

I think it was a campaign to reassure commuters who were dying in droves because of the reckless driving and disregard of traffic rules by taxi drivers.

Now, most drivers adhere to the rules and the 100km speed limit. A few irredeemable characters still take you to town in seven minutes, but thankfully they are a tiny minority.

Commuters have also learnt to speak up for themselves and can generally control a driver who forgets to behave.

But we now have a new threat in the taxi industry. Every other month or so, drivers and passengers are killed by anonymous men.

No one seems to know who they are or who sent them. They fire indiscriminately at anyone near them. I doubt that they manage to eliminate their intended victims.

Last week, a woman was killed and two men injured in a shooting spree at Johannesburg's Bree Street Taxi Rank. No one saw the shooters and no one was apprehended.

Our taxi driver asked if we wanted to use the usual route through Bree Street as it was a scary sight. He said it was now safe, but he could not guarantee that it was over.

About 30 minutes later, it was business as usual as people jumped over pools of blood and inched their way over broken glass to get to their route queues.

There were so many policemen and Metro officers and the rank looked like a police jamboree.

But the demons had long fled, leaving behind the fear that they would come back again. This fear is fuelled by the fact that there are many children at the ranks.

Parents are taking their children into the CBD for the annual shopping spree for clothes and school uniforms. The towns and cities are packed with families and strangers whose lives might be cut short by hired killers who have no respect for human lives.

I now pose the same question to the taxi associations, Nithini na? Is it true that no one knows these killers? Who is behind the murders? Who are the hunted?

Scores of drivers have died in the last 10 years. The killings have not solved the taxi problems which are as knotted as before. If the killings are a vendetta or revenge killings, why can't they be stopped?

What are the associations saying about being associated with these cold, callous killings which do not solve anything and only succeed in tainting the taxi industry?

I think it is time that the industry brought back the campaign promise to take us safely home. Passengers need that reassurance. The industry is the only one blacks can claim as their own.