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Search on for SA's top taxi driver

2012-04-30 10:00

SA'S SAFEST TAXI DRIVER TITLE: SA taxi drivers will compete in a grueling competition to win themselves a new minibus as well as clean up their image.

Johannes Myburgh

GERMISTON, Gauteng - Mangled wreckage from deadly head-on collisions is usually what lands South Africa's notoriously aggressive minibus taxis in the headlines. Some drivers are working to change this image.

In a country with nearly 14 000 road deaths a year (unofficial figures say it is closer to 30 000 because of poor hospital reporting systems), one of the highest in the world, minibus taxis are frequently responsibile for much of the carnage.

Watch the video.

One driver in February 2012 was jailed for to 20 years for killing 10 children in a minibus-train crash after he ignored a safety boom at a railroad crossing.


A competition is attracting thousands of drivers hoping to improve SA's taxi reputation and avoid such deadly accidents. The contest is hoping to name South Africa's safest driver. One hopeful, Molupe Leboto, said: "We are learning how to take care of our passengers. We are learning also how to save ourselves."

A test session in Germiston tasked drivers with negotiating an obstacle course while an instructor evaluated their skills. After the yard test they will evaluate drivers on the road.

More than 5000 drivers are competing in the Number 1 Taxi Driver Campaign, hoping to win one of four new minibuses.

Driving instructor Sthembiso Segolela said: "They're always rushing. Their bosses want money so they're working under very strict conditions and it pushes them to go over yellow lanes, to drive a little bit reckless, a little bit faster."

Taxi driver Churchill said: "They bend the rules sometimes, but the thing is if you do that once, or you do that twice - many times it will cause an accident."

The R30-billion industry, which ferries around 25-million people a day, suffers from an image that its drivers are all reckless, speeding and blaring horns through the streets. They've also come under fire for abusing women who wear mini-skirts, and even knocking over pedestrians in road rage incidents.


Segolela said: "Road rage affects innocent drivers. So that's what we're trying to discourage, so they could try to get a little bit of emotional intelligence so they know how to control their emotion."

On top of that pressure from competitors and passengers stresses conductors, who are paid commission rather than by the hour, creating an incentive to carry as many people as quickly as possible. Driver Musa Mndebele said: "They used to get angry very fast. As they're customers, it is patience I need to have most."

In an industry with many illegal operators, the campaign encourages regulation by requiring contestants to have a driving licence and public transport permit. Francis Masitsa, chairman of the National Taxi Association whose members account for 40% of minibus operators, said: "They protect the commuters because that is where our bread comes from."

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