You meet people from all walks of life when you travel in a minibus taxi in SA

16 January 2018 - 14:08
By Kwanele Ndlovu
The Wanderers taxi rank in Johannesburg is a hive of activity in December  as people who live and work in Gauteng travel their homed in  different provinces and holiday destinations. /Gallo Images
The Wanderers taxi rank in Johannesburg is a hive of activity in December as people who live and work in Gauteng travel their homed in different provinces and holiday destinations. /Gallo Images

There are a few unwritten rules that we learn along the way regarding the taxi industry. Some are fortunately printed on stickers strategically placed on the dashboard conveying various restrictions such as the weight limits and the minimum accounting and maths literacy required for occupying the front seat.

Last month, I witnessed two odd white folks on a taxi to Boksburg, East Rand, learn that a simple "Short left, driver" is all the indication needed for a taxi stop - in a loud clear voice of course.

The two were clearly committed to saving water, the Ekurhuleni municipality would be really impressed. I bet they shower with no more than a jug full of water every three days, upstanding citizens.

The type who'd rob you right after asking you for a smoke in proper Sesotho.

"Die taxi mos stops whereva huh? Like, I can sommer jump off?" they enquired.

Well, I don't speak to strangers. And I was trying to hold my breath so I didn't choke from the stink of his ganja-scented tan - so I just stared at him.

Turned out they wanted to alight at the on-ramp at the freeway, a Joburg freeway.

Nothing would have prepared me for the polite manner, diligence and detailed instruction the one dude employed to inform the driver of their stop.

"Askies mister driver. Ons wanna drop off daar in die front. The road coming in... Can jou slow down, go to die left lane. Daar is like 3 kars coming behind. After them it's safe."

I laughed so loud in my best "Die man kap die hout" tone.

Here was a guy giving a K53 lesson to the driver in a taxi. Needless to say, the Van der Merwes were dropped off at a bus stop almost 2km from their dream spot.

But, as karma would have, I too would have my day. One day I found myself in the backseat of a Quantum. We were short of four more passengers before departure to the South Coast.

The fellow I sat next to was clearly fresh from consulting a traditional healer. Ugcabile! I mean fresh incisions that probably stopped bleeding a few hours prior.

Sandy from whatever muthi was rubbed onto them. He smelt like the inyanga instructed him not to bathe till New Year's Eve. Reeking of chicken blood and the part that made me sneeze for 15 minutes was definitely not cinnamon.

His eyebrows smudged with red paste - I bet his sworn enemy back home would collapse the moment they locked eyes.

He was polite, and offered me his Zambuk lip balm right after digging into it with his black hard nail. But his generosity came only after I was dragged by the taxi driver in front of 10 passengers.

As per Santaco long distance travel policy, I'm handed the book to enlist my name, address and emergency contact numbers.

I wrote my Umlazi address - which I've used for nearly two decades due to the township's precise sections and numbering system.

Him: Ubani ke lo kleva obhale uMlazi la? (Which genius wrote an Umlazi address here?)

All passengers turn back to stare at me and I put on my f**of face for defence.

Him: Aliyi eThekwini letekisi wesisi. Awubuzi ngani mawulahlekile! (This taxi is not headed for Durban my sister, ask for assistance if you're lost.)

Me: Ngiya ePortshepstone ... (I'm going to Port Shepstone)

Him: Pho ubhala uMlazi wani la? (So why the Umlazi address?)

Me: I-address yami ... (It's my address)

Him: Angithi nala eGoli nibhalisa oSandton nibe nihlala eAlex. Mncimf. Awubhali ngani eMadakana la oyakhona? Bantu! (The same way you Joburg people write your addresses as Sandton while you live in Alex! Why not write Madakana, your destination?)