We treat our customers badly, admits taxi boss

Minibus taxi drivers could soon start treating their customers better and improving the industry’s dented image—that’s if a new university course has the desired effect.

“We ill-treat our customers and think they are doing us a favour by using our taxis,” chairperson of the Gauteng National Taxi Association Sicelo Mabaso said in Johannesburg on Monday.

“We go on strike because we lack understanding of marketing and customer care, then get surprised when our customers use alternative transport. Our children ...
we only transport them during their schooling years but the minute they complete their schooling, they look for the cheapest vehicle to buy because of the treatment they get and this shrinks our customer base,” said Mabaso.

He was speaking at the launch of a business management training programme for taxi operators at the University of Johannesburg campus in Soweto.

The course, which is to be offered by the institution’s small business development department, was aimed at teaching taxi operators financial and marketing management skills.

The programme was introduced in conjunction with the Gauteng transport department and South African Transport Solutions (Sats).

Mabaso urged taxi operators to take the course seriously as it would equip them with vital skills to help them generate more income and also help them to manage their money wisely.

“The issue of putting money underneath our pillows ... don’t be offended because I’m also from there ... I would end up misusing all the money and come January of the next year I’d be broke. So, colleagues, let’s take advantage of this empowerment,” he said.

Gauteng public transport operations director Terrance Tsoaela echoed Mabaso’s words, saying it was time taxi operators learned the skills of balancing books.

“Saving money in socks, plastics and underneath mattresses isn’t going to work if you want to make money. That’s why it’s important to be equipped with business management skills,” Tsoaela said.

He said it was disheartening that only a handful of the 45 000 registered Gauteng taxi operators had shown interest in the programme.

“I have a problem that we are only going to train 50 operators by September ... which means we would have trained 2 000 by next year.

“If we succeed by getting ... 2 000 by next year, we would not have succeeded, we would not have scratched the surface as we have 45 000 registered operators in the province.”

Director at UJ’s Centre for Small Business Development Thami Mazwai urged taxi operators to grab the opportunity as Sat’s aim was “to create a difference in the industry”.

“Empowerment is never thrust on you ... you have to grab it,” Mazwai said.

A researcher in his department was already developing a programme that would test if operators were implementing what they had learned 12 months after completing the course, he said.

Mpumi Galela of Sats said the overall aim was to register taxi associations as business entities in order to formalise the industry.—Sapa

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