Tea breaks and taxis to make service uncivil

We heard with mixed feelings about the government's intention to take over the taxi industry. The taxi ranks will be run by public servants while the queue marshals and assorted taxi personnel will be retrained.

We heard with mixed feelings about the government's intention to take over the taxi industry. The taxi ranks will be run by public servants while the queue marshals and assorted taxi personnel will be retrained.

This sounds good on paper but will it really be practical? Nothing has been said about training the beggars and hawkers who ply their trade at the ranks.

Auntie Emma, who knows these things, was the first to tell us, gleefully, about these plans. She said the government would fail, for two reasons.

First, the taxi industry was begun illegally despite the apartheid government's sanctions. This illegal business thrived and evolved by setting up its own rules and regulations. Except for the extreme sanction visited on some owners and workers, the people involved run the industry efficiently. The taxi industry still thrives even if the logic of its success escapes the government's comprehension.

Auntie Emma said the public servants, who always work with a stained, dog-eared manual in hand, will fail dismally to regulate or run this business because of its many unwritten rules.

Perhaps the National Intelligence Agency will plant spies to try and unravel its secrets.

The second reason, Auntie Emma said, that would kill or send the public servants packing, was the "tea break".

Anyone who has been to the post office, hospital or worst of all, Home Affairs, has painful memories of the "tea break".

The tea break is a sacrosanct tradition of the civil service. Nothing is allowed to interfere with this sacred breather. One can queue for hours at a counter only for the clerk to leave you fuming because "it is tea break".

So, our Model C Pinkie wanted to know when the new marshals would take their tea break at the ranks. Everyone chorused "at peak hour".

Muzi, our sole male passenger, who is allowed to speak in order for us to comply with transformation, said he was certain that the new-look marshals would "take a break" while frustrated passengers waited to board a taxi home.

He said that instead of the dubious abortion posters and Dr Mama's sangoma adverts, the ranks would be deluged with quotes from the public service manuals about orderly queues and the reasons for the tea break.

Pinkie, who is dying to emulate the June 16 youth revolutionaries, said we should organise a rally and march to stop this nonsense.

She said we should have T-shirts printed with slogans saying "Hands off our peak hour", "No tea breaks" and other assorted messages to show our displeasure.

The taxi driver, a youngster with one of those hairstyles, said he had come from Limpopo to Jozi to work for his parents. He said he did not hold with strikes.

He then upped the volume of the radio to ear-splitting levels. We will start the revolution by laughing at his hairstyle. That will show him.

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