The next taxi was a peaceful one, no one played loud music nor even spoke loudly. But it had its own challenge: it was not safe for anyone to be in it. This taxi was introduced right after the apartheid era in South Africa to transport citizens to their workspaces. Most taxis are mainly used by coloured and black people in South Africa because of the Group Areas act introduced by the regime. This meant that black and coloured people were moved far into the outskirts of the city, further disadvantaging them.
These taxis are called Siyayas, which means ‘moving forward’. These Siyayas transport me from the middle of the city centre (town) to the Nelson Mandela University (NMU). They were put in place to secure safe travel for all our citizens, but just like everything in South Africa it is all corrupted.
The Siyayas stood in rows, like the way I remember myself standing in line at primary school waiting for government bread. In fact, they looked like huge loaves of uncut bread themselves. They were uncomfortably built; they are small and low. Each time someone got in or out they had to bow their heads as if getting into a one-man tent. Every time someone bent over their butt crack would show. If I didn’t see a butt crack while taking taxi then my day would feel off, like something was missing because it had become my norm.
Once inside I found myself sitting on an open seat, as if a dog had scratched it looking for a bone. The seats were uncomfortable, and every time someone had to get out three or four others that were seated in front of them had move to make room for the person to get out.
This in and out movement of people used up so much time and that made me even more late for my class. The taxi moved slowly, as you could hear the engine trying to hold on for dear life. The driver would thrust the gears, from first to second, third fourth and fifth.
The gear lever was long, if the driver were reckless, he could hit the passenger to the left in his balls. While sitting in the taxi, I watched everything. How the driver struggled to count and asked the passenger on his left to count the money and give people their change. I hated sitting at the front. One time I sat there and counted the money and forgot to pay my own fare. I didn’t realise it was me and I denied it and said that I had paid already.
The driver stopped the taxi in the middle of the road, refusing to leave unless someone paid the fare. Then everyone in the taxi pitched together to pay it. Once at the university I realised that I had my fair in my pocket.
Someone suddenly screamed 3t (which was a stop where people got off) and the taxi came to halt. The lady with her red curled-weave got up from the backseat and as she moved forward, I looked at her from the corner of my eye. She was a beautiful Xhosa girl and I wished to know what her real hair looked like, if only she saw the beauty I saw in that glimpse of a moment.
She struggled heavily to open the taxi door. Then the driver got out of the front seat and walked around the taxi to open the door. He then proceeded to help her, and finally she got out.
Tell us: Were you ever in the situation where someone in the taxi didn’t pay their taxi fare?