First off, I’d like to say all those orchestrating this madness – may bad luck follow you, and may your grandchildren and great grandchildren be accursed with unequal feet. How many people should continue to die on the roads because of reckless and negligent driving? How many people must continue to lose their jobs because of long delays in getting to work? How many people should continue to be at the mercy of day to day robberies at train stations? These are the questions that I think about when on public transport.

Most people – especially the poor – are heavily reliant on public transport such as taxis and the metrorail trains. As customers, we put the matter of our safety, security and convenience into their hands. But really, how many of us can say we’re even half satisfied? Public transport services have been nothing but appalling – from the attitude of taxi drivers to the under-serviced trains that break down in the middle of nowhere. Sadly, we’re open victims who continue still with the abusive relationship… after all what else can we do, right?

Personally, I have been in incidences that left me longing to quit. For instance, Last year, I was mugged at a darkly lit station whilst waiting for a train. It was in the afternoon and I had just got off school after writing a test. I managed to get away with my life but not with my phone. And later in the year, a greater misfortune befell me as I was going to my sister’s place. It was the end of the semester in December; I had packed all my luggage into five bags. After the train had stopped in the middle of nowhere three times, for 30 minutes each time, I needed to pee. I asked the security on the train to look after my luggage, and dashed to the toilet. When I came back, I found that the train had left, along with all of my luggage. I desperately hiked a lift to the next station. I got there just as the train was passing, and I asked the security to stop the train for me. Their response was an adamant ‘no’, saying that it was too late for that sort of call to be made, and that their shifts were already over. I lodged a complaint to Metrorail, but heard nothing.

Then there are taxi events that stretch to early childhood, and would make for a big fat photo album of terrible memories. This year alone I’ve had so many unpleasurable encounters, often because I tend to stand my ground when I’m feeling unfairly treated. In most instances, the verbal exchange comes from being ditched nowhere near the area of my destination because the driver hurriedly changes his mind when his other passengers are going to another destination Once a driver nearly stopped the taxi to physically fight me after I had complained about him making me and another passenger try to work out the change for the fares. I mean what business is it that can’t cater for such a primary customer service? Then there was that time I was almost in a head-on collision- because the taxi driver saw it fit to drive in the opposite incoming lane to overtake cars on our side…

In a perfect world we’d like to see less cars on the road to fight global warming and to reduce the congestion and accidents on our roads. We’d like to use public transport that works for us. The alternatives, such as Gautrain, Uber and some bus systems have expensive prices that clash with depths of our pockets. In some other countries, public transport is affordable and efficient. But here in South Africa, where there are so many people who cannot afford their own cars, we are dependent on these poor services. Are we going to accept this?

I don’t exactly have all the answers, but for all of our sakes surely there are solutions to improve the quality of the public transport systems here in South Africa.


Tell us: what are your feelings about public transport in SA?

This blog also forms part of our Rights 2.0 – Bridging Divides project. Find out more here.