If you’re a driver on South African Roads, then you’ve most probably had a run-in with a mini-bus taxi (driver) at some stage. I’ve had more than my fair share; in fact come to think of it, it happens nearly every day. Yes, I’ve been peeved and vented my anger by shouting out the obligatory expletives; sometimes even gave the finger salute.
You’re wondering why I’m admitting this much. Well, this morning some idiot called in on a radio talk show and blew his gasket: he insisted that all mini-bus taxis (and drivers) be removed from the roads. Strangely enough, the talk-show host, Gareth Cliff, who is normally inclined to agree with such outburts directed at the transport industry or government in general, lambasted this poor fool. Gareth pointed out, rightfully off course that millions of South Africans depend on these “death traps” to get to work and in the absence of any viable alternative transport system, these unfortunate millions had no choice. The removal of the mini-bus taxis from our roads, without ensuring alternative replacement transport infrastructure, would create chaos and even more problems.
This got me thinking about the root causes of the mini-bus taxi driver’s behaviour on the roads. Why do they anger so many other drivers, seemingly quite intentionally. After careful consideration, it is evident that taxi drivers, don’t drive any worse than any other South African motorists. I have observed all drivers in general on South African roads, and I can say with conviction that you are are about as bad as taxi drivers. Admit it, you also drive in the barrier line when it suits you, you drive at high speeds in your fancy luxury cars, you fail to stop at stop streets, you fail to stop when required at traffic lights; you all break the rules of the road with reckless abandon. It is plainly hypocritical to just single out taxi drivers, even racist. If you consider the amount of time they spend driving every day, it is logical to conclude that taxi driver’s acquire superior driving skills to the other users of the road – consider how they always seem to squeeze effortlessly into the smallest of gaps between following vehicles, weave across multiple lanes into the barrier line, pick up passengers, then still manage to get ahead of you in traffic again. No, you need superior driving skills to pull off feats such as these. Honestly, the taxi driver breaks the rules of the road simply because it is a means to increase his take-home pay. For the taxi driver, the equation is simple: break rules of road + ignore other motorists anger = more trips/more money. They do not anger other motorists, intentionally; it is just business.
So what are the root causes? For one, it has to be the unscrupulous and greedy taxi bosses (mini-bus taxi owners) who force these drivers to break the rules of the road in order to earn enough money to be able to pay the taxi boss a fixed daily amount and still go home with enough to look after his or her family. Secondly, government failure to regulate the industry sufficiently and also failure to provide a decent public transport system. I’m also willing to bet that senior government members are actually taxi bosses as well. When you are on the road again, try to be more courteous to taxi drivers, who knows, they might in time, even learn to reciprocate. By the way, I do not drive or own any taxis, in case you were wondering.