Not An Easy Ride
Drum English|16 July 2020
Taxi commuters and industry players tell DRUM what’s driving them to defy lockdown rules
Siyabonga Dzimbili

It's 11 am and he’s standing on the side of a busy road in Westdene, waiting to catch a taxi. A van pulls up with the taxi guard shouting directions, which come through clearly through his mask.

Although there’s a half bottle of sanitiser on the front seat, he doesn’t offer to spray the incoming passenger’s hands or check his temperature.

Even so, David Masemole boards the half-empty minivan, wearing a mask.

By the time the taxi reaches Sandton, it’s chock-a-block and most passengers have removed their masks. “I do what I can to protect myself and leave the rest to the Almighty,” David tells DRUM.

Although taxis were allowed 50% capacity when lockdown started, it was later eased to allow 70% capacity.

Now operators across the country have reverted to 100% capacity loading – fuelling fears it may spike the infection rate of the killer coronavirus.

The move comes after a breakdown in talks between the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) and the department of transport over the relief for taxis during lockdown, leaving commuters feeling the blow.

Sitting packed like sardines at a time when social distancing is encouraged is terrifying, says David who travels 15km to Sandton where he works as a plumber.

But commuters have no choice.

“I won’t even say the drivers are wrong because they are here to work for their children at the end of the day,” David says.

“Which person have you met who would worry about something they don’t have yet instead of worrying about not having bread when they wake up?

“We have to work, and we have to use the taxis.”

Like David, Merriam Rwanqa depends on public transport to get from her home in Sophiatown to Joburg CBD where she works at Shoprite. Merriam has used taxis all her life because it’s easier on her pocket, but these days she avoids sitting in middle seats and tries to get a window seat for fresh air.

“At the end of the day we are all human, we can’t fight each other but must fight the virus,” she says.

“I still fear getting the virus and I think more must be done to educate people about it.”

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