Breaking Barriers

Women with Hearts of Lions

“Strike a woman, you strike a rock” a phrase showing how strong and powerful women are, the taxi industry; an industry considered by many to be male dominated, women are slowly taking up positions and cementing their place asking for the fair share of this multi-billion rands pie. The month of August is the time South Africa celebrates women in the annual Woman’s Month commemoration. In this issue we sat down with women doing exceptionally well in the taxi industry, exceeding expectations

Mothibi Setlhanka

08 August 2020

The taxi industry has for many years been dominated by men, the hierarchy of this multi-billion-rand operation has been positions being occupied by men; from taxi drivers to executive committee members of taxi associations. Well on the 13th of September 2004, this narrative changed at the Marapyane Taxi Association (MATA). Her story is so fascinating in a sense that she broke barriers and continues to do so by waking every day to go the taxi rank and do what she does best, ensuring that commuters reach their destinations in peace and that there is no commotion amongst the taxi operators, she is the controller at the ranks due to her position as the Queue Marshall (Q-Marshall). She is the first lady Q-Marshall from Johannesburg to Polokwane

Meet Rosina Mmagabi Rakau; from Lefiso, Majatladi section. Due to unemployment she applied for employment at MATA, after her parent’s passing she was forced to look for a job to sustain life at home. “Initially when I approached MATA at Lefiso taxi rank, it was more of a joke as I did not think that they would take me serious and hire me” jokingly said Rosina. She was called in for an interview a day later, where she was interviewed and later inducted on what she would be expected to do daily should she take the offer. Funny enough at the time in 2004; while on probation she was stationed Lefiso taxi rank getting paid two rands (R2.00) per taxi that left the rank with a full load. Of course she was scared in the beginning but because of her determination and the support she received from her colleagues; she prevailed and conquered her fears. She exceeded expectations and gradually got promotions.

To date within the Marapyane Taxi Association; there are three women (two Q-Marshalls and one taxi driver). In terms of challenges, she told us it is the same with the ones faced by male drivers and operators – developing a thick skin, one has to adapt fast and do things accordingly and allow yourself the space to learn and deal with different obstacles and customers daily – the biggest challenge for them as women is to debunk the myth that women cannot survive in the taxi industry. She told us women need to start coming in and take part, whether leadership positions or operations such ownership.

When asked about the biggest impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus is the decision by the National Command Council (NCC)’s to put the country on lockdown thus limiting movements; furthermore, regulation 43 in the Government Gazette No.  43521 which amongst other things stipulates that taxis may not carry more than 70% passengers for long distance travelling. With the banking sector seemingly not willing to introduce payment holidays for vehicle financed particularly public transport i.e. taxis. Moreover, the government has to date been unable to assist the taxi industry with funds from the President’s COVID-19 Solidarity Fund said Rosina Rakau.

Queen Mashamaite, from Katjibane village in Mpumalanga the only female taxi driver within MATA told us that women are just as equally capable of succeeding in the taxi industry. Although the process is slow, eventually she believes most will grow the courage and fully participate in it. She has been a taxi driver since 2009. The immense support they get from the elders within the association makes life simple for them, they do not feel harassed or discriminated against due to their gender, which is something very important in a country with many cases of Gender Based Violence (GBV). For that we applaud the leadership of the Marapyane Taxi Association (MATA), its membership and the entire structures within it.

Both Rosina Rakau and Queen Mashamaite have achieved a lot since joining the industry; Rosina managed to extend her parents’ two room house to a seven (7) room house. Likewise; Queen also managed to make major home improvements due to her capacity of a taxi driver. She also managed to get and build her own place. Life has definitely not been the same for the two ladies ever since joining the taxi industry. Queen normally spends twelve (12) hours on the road, her day starts around 7am to 7pm depending on the day of the month. May they prosper, we wish them all the best of luck with their future endeavors.