Why BRT is not particularly popular with taxi operators

The late ruler of the KwaNdebele Bantustan Joas Mahlangu once refused a black Mercedes sedan, which was one of the perks of office.

The late ruler of the KwaNdebele Bantustan Joas Mahlangu once refused a black Mercedes sedan, which was one of the perks of office.

The apartheid government then rewarded mediocre and stupid puppets with great toys if they facilitated the "independence" of their bantustans. I remember that Patrick Mphephu was a ridiculous figure in tails and a homburg when he "opened his parliament".

Mahlangu was also such a leader, a man of limited intelligence and experience. He refused the Merc and begged for a kombi instead.

His deficient reasoning was that the Merc would not be financially viable. He wanted a kombi, to pick up hitchhikers (dobha dobha) en route to Pretoria whenever he was summoned by his white masters.

I suspect this type of reasoning is also behind the reluctance of the taxi associations to endorse the Bus Rapid Transit that is a darling project of the government.

The BRT will serve obedient customers who will buy legal tickets at designated sites. These tickets can be used for buses and taxis.

This idea does not sit well with taxi operators for several reasons. The symbiotic relationship between taxi owners and their drivers is unique to the industry.

Owners want a certain sum of money each day. They do not want to know what the driver did to reach the target. They look after the major repairs while the driver looks after the minor ones.

The drivers receive a small wage and are expected to augment their salaries through their ingenuity. This means picking up stray passengers. They can also organise a trip that will net them a little bit on the side. Some drivers undertake overnight trips to make extra money.

The money goes towards paying for new tyres, daily car wash, petrol and new brake pads. It also pays for the driver's dry cleaning, lunch of greasy chicken, small debts and traffic fines.

You see, drivers do live or depend on the dobha dobha to survive. A few months ago in Pretoria, they toyi-toyied when they realised that the ticket system was not flexible and got rid of the opportunity for dobha dobha.

Pretoria has a pilot project whereby passengers buy tickets, just like for a Putco bus. They queue up and the taxi leaves with a full load. There is no dobha dobha. Now the government wants the industry to forgo dobha dobha and instead work off tickets that are linked to buses.

Auntie Emma says this is not surprising because every government has salivated at the possibility of taxing the taxi industry.

She says the tickets and the BRT are a plot to entrap the taxi industry into paying taxes.