Text: Botsotso Mabhalane
The last time I ever found myself trapped inside a people-carrying contraption of the taxi industry was shortly before the launch of the now demonized taxi recapitalisation programme that sought to reduce the number of a washed-out herd of Datsun E20s, the Toyota Super Series and the late 1970s favourites, amakatshibane. To be specific, I was on the Germiston - Spruitview route that is overseen by the overzealous Katlehong People’s Taxi Association, in a Toyota Super 16 death wagon that brandished a ridiculously gigantic rearing white horse decal on the back, certified to carry a total of 15 passengers. There were however not 15 but 22 of us passengers in this derelict wagon; 18 adults and 2 childrens. It dawned on me during this last ride that taxi drivers in fact do mean it when they say ‘4-4 Masihlalisane’. Our driver, a heavily dreadlocked ‘siyaya ePitori’ type of the Zulu nation in chocolate-brown Brentwood chinos and untied Omega sandals, did not understand why it was that some of the 22 co-passengers persisted calling him Jah-Man.‘Nay’imihlola! We Mangethe, lemigodoyi ingibiza ngoJamani’ he had said to the queue marshal who responded accordingly with such resounding laughter that those of us who were in the taxi already, cringed as the purported Jamani added ‘unyoko loyo!’. As we all sat in uneasy body postures breathing out awkward giggles, most likely thinking about our poor mothers who had just made it out of this vile man’s mouth, I came to a realisation. I realised that amaZulu my people, are holistic philistines; uncouth and uncultured siyay’nyovas. Not only are we bile-spewing lunatics always on the lookout for opportunities to straighten somebody out, we are also self-elected custodians of the taxi industry who go by the famed moniker ‘abomageza’, to which the BaSotho minority in the industry often respond ‘mageza ke mmao’.
Naturally, I am packed in the back seat having had to give up my front seat for a Jane comes to Joburg type carrying an untold amount of luggage, evidently from the rurals even though she was adamant: ‘ngivelo’stocka’ when Jamani barked ‘imithwalo engaka pho we mama? Uzoykhokhela ke, angbhebywa mina’. I didn’t know that folk still packed this nonsensically to come to the city of gold – well, what’s left of it. As she piled her entire life into this heap, we, her soon-to-be co-passengers looked at each other, responding to hectic questions being asked by our nostrils. My nostrils were particularly keen on knowing why it was that I was in this particular taxi where armpit odour seemed the order of the day. You see, on Jane’s heels was an unquestionably extraneous gentleman, likely a backroom dweller in Tsietsi who clearly cared too little for his hygiene. Well, it is either that or the man was part of a scientific experiment on the effects of armpit odour on insects because there suddenly were a number of cockroaches making rounds security guard style in the bedraggled heap. Leaving the slay queens in the middle seat in a frenzy, to Mr Queue Marshal’s dismay. ‘Aybo, wesisi, kanti awuhlali eZonke yini? Ungazozihlaza uyhlekise ngathi’ he said bursting into yet another resounding bout of laughter. Of course he was speaking to Zonke being bottom of the pit as far as squatter camps go. The Winnie Mandelas and Diepsloots of this world do not even compare. In the meantime, lalisho ikhwapha bafwethu, yeyi! Ay bayazala abanye oomama. By the time I arrived home, not even the age-old Grandpa could numb the Black Motion fest that was taking place in my head. I had at some point even considered pleading with one of the slay queens to pass around perfume or something from her bag, just to rescue us.
For the first time in my life since the stink-bomb incident, I last weekend journeyed home in a taxi. Being honest however, stink-bomb was not the reason Jamani’s ride was my last. Jamani was. Along with the two top-shayelas (slay queens) from Khumalo, I had not responded well to the stink-bomb incident, what with making all kinds of sounds and faces to Jamani’s exasperation. He had proceeded to ask whether my head was too ‘sthandiveli’ for it to pop outside the window for some fresh air, and of course I dared not respond. Following this, I figured, a loan, any kind of loan really, was in order for a jalopy of my own because it seemed there was a memorandum out for passengers to tolerate all kinds of nonsense, including untold body odours in the name of economical, communal commuting. Unqualified for vehicle finance, I acquired a personal loan, proceeded to max out credit cards and overdrafts then supplemented all that with a paperless personal loan from Nyakaza, the friendly neighbourhood loan shark. While I have recovered from all other debts, Nyakaza’s ballooning debt, remained unpaid, until last weekend that is. I have for this reason been ducking and diving, changing haircuts and residential addresses in my attempt to evade Nyakaza or Nyaka-Nyaka to those familiar with his wrath. Tired of living my life like the Guptas, I finally decided to sell my jalopy in order to raise capital to repay Nyakaza. This was the reason I found myself in a cool 13 seater Toyota Quantum last weekend making my way to Zonke. Knowing my hood, I was worried sick by the amount of money I was going to be carrying on my person. So, I remembered an old trick of my grandmother’s who regularly split her SASSA pension money evenly and placed it all across her body on pay day. I tell you, my socks, the inside of my shoes, trouser pockets including the inside of my vest among other places, proved useful. As I journeyed back to emakasana I realised that with the new, cool and spacious Toyota Quantums, plenty of problems were solved though some old ones remained while newer ones have emerged too. Drivers are still the backward imbeciles that shun any association with water and privacy is too much of an expectation similarly. I found myself asking the giraffe-necked chap next to me if I could help him as he helped himself to mine and Matshidiso’s heated WhatsApp sextages.
‘Ngithi ngyakusiza na webafo njengoba usujulukiswa ifoni yami nje?’ I had asked, leaving co-travellers in stitches, and the entire coach breaking into all kinds of conversations thereafter. Some things indeed haven’t changed. It being a pleasant Saturday, three youths in the seats behind me were engaged in a casual conversation about a bring and braai event they were going to and how they didn’t have enough money to sustain them and their potential mantraps. ‘Akuna jive ntwana, sizondlula daar eSontonga s’thole i-petty cash yabo?’ one had said. ‘Fede, fede’ came the response. I heard a few days ago that a Liquor Store was robbed on the weekend at Enoch Sontonga Plaza and the description of the assailants matches those of my co-passengers. Ewu.