Being a female driver in a minibus taxi industry dominated by men is a tough job, but when you’re a single mother with three mouths to feed you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.
Forty-five-year-old Magauta Moloi has been a driver at Tembisa’s Sangweni taxi rank for 12 years. She began entertaining the idea of driving minibus taxis in 2000 when she was struggling to find a job.
“I started washing taxis at a taxi rank in Kempton Park and one day it began raining and one of the drivers whose taxi I washed said to me, ‘Can you see that on rainy days you can’t work, so try and find a licence and a driving school so that if an opportunity comes up, you can drive’.”
Moloi took that advice and got a licence; but she still continued washing taxis since many of the drivers didn’t trust her yet.
She got her first opportunity in 2000, when one of the drivers whose taxis she washed decided to give her a chance.
Not deterred by tough working conditions
“At first he would sit in the taxi and make me drive around Tembisa to see if I could really do it. Then he eventually put me on the Sunday shift to start out and eventually when space became available, I moved to the other shifts.”
Moloi fell pregnant the following year and had to give up her spot on the driving roster. She spent a year on maternity leave, and when she returned, she had to start from scratch and gain back the trust of taxi owners.
“I was hustling at the rank and came across the owner’s younger brother who suggested that I ask the taxi drivers whether they wanted to take a day off so that I could replace them for that day. I kept on doing that until the owner bought a new taxi and then there was space for me.”
Moloi said being the only woman around men all day and working in the taxi industry in general was tough but that did not deter her.
“You just get used to it and go with the flow. Some of them will look down on you, but you let it go. Others will be civil with you and you treat them the same. Days aren’t the same, so you have to be like them and treat them how they treat you. But you get used to them,” Moloi said.
The single mother of three says she does not enjoy being a taxi driver but does it to put food on the table. She is hoping that she can make enough money to extend her two-roomed RDP house so that she can generate income through tenants.
“It’s tough to make money because all the bills are my responsibility, I have to put money on the table and sometimes the money is too little.
‘You can’t just sit down and do nothing’
“We get 20% of whatever we make for the day. So if I make R2 500, I will get R500. If I make R3 000, I get R600, if I make R2 000 I get R400,” Moloi said.
“If I can build rooms outside at least I can make money from that, then I could stop driving. Even after all this time, I don’t enjoy it but I do it because of the circumstances I am in.
“I didn’t finish my matric. Those who have their matric can at least look for work in companies doing something better.”
Moloi urged all those who were struggling to find jobs, especially women, not to give up.
“When you don’t have a job life can get really tough. We as mothers have homes to look after and you can’t just sit down and do nothing.
“They should use the hands they’ve got to do something to make sure those kids go to school.
“It’s not that I love what I do but I have to try and make a living.”