My name is Tebogo Maponyane, a father, a partner, a brother, journalist and taxi driver/owner. I have been in the media industry for the past eight years, having worked for Media24 (Daily Sun) and Ndalo Media (Destiny Man). My previous roles included being a reporter, sub-editor and features writer. Working for the Daily Sun newspaper was a great period, where I learnt a lot about the industry and gained valuable knowledge and experience.
After almost six years at the People’s Paper, an opportunity came for me to jump ship and explore the industry further. But as the saying goes…. The grass is not always greener on the other side. As a features writer at Destiny Man, I interviewed established and young business leaders across South Africa and the southern-Africa. There was a lot of travelling, freebies (who doesn’t like them) and I managed to grow my contact list and met with many prominent figures.
After a year and a few months, rumours started circulating that the business was going through financial difficulties! There would be months when our salaries would reflect days later than the agreed payment day. Ndalo media owner at the time, Khanyi Dhlomo called on a meeting where we got the bad news…. retrenchments were on the way.
So I got retrenched in 2017 and things just went downhill after that. The media industry was going through its own challenges. I applied for several jobs, called friends in places but my experience didn’t help at all. Months went by and the bills kept piling up! As a man, a father and provider, I had to make a big decision on how I was going to generate some form of income.
My family has always been in the taxi industry. Growing up, I would pitch in and help my father by being his driver and helping him with mechanical stuff. So, I took a bit of cash that I had saved up and bought myself a taxi. If anyone told you the taxi business is easy money, then I don’t know which taxi industry that person is in. Talking from experience, being in the taxi industry is tough, you need to be tough and take no nonsense from anyone. Just like any other industry, it has it’s challenges and good times.
Some of the challenges we face is being harassed by police officers who always want bribes, waking up at 4am to transport sometimes very impatient passengers and having no assistance from government. If your taxi breaks down, you have to fork out money from your own pocket. Since the country has been on lockdown due to the coronavirus, we have felt the pinch in our industry.
Government came with regulations that we could only transport seven passengers per trip. A full load is 14 passengers, so it meant we had to work with half a load, petrol had already went up – so making good money was close to nothing! On the other hand, you have taxi operators who have their taxis financed by banks defaulting on payments due to the government regulations on the taxi industry. So, Santaco (South African National Taxi Council) decided that since a lot its operators have been suffering without any financial assistance from government, a memo was sent out that we should take full loads.
So we have been bending the rules, not breaking them so that we can eat. We are pleading with the South African government to help us, just like they do with other sectors of the economy.