ENJOY THE JOURNEY
AN AFRICAN TALE
weaves his High Impact African Culling Equipment (Hi-Ace) through the
rush-hour traffic, occasionally using the pavement to increase efficiency.
The rising sun shines brightly off Togetherness's gleaming, stolen BMW
hubcaps. Togetherness is a confident man with high spirits, as evident
from the stickers on his rear window: "GOD LOVES TAX DRIVERS"
and "AVOID CONSTIPATION - TRAVEL BY TAXI."
On the front of his taxi, between a large dent in the ominous shape of
a traffic officer and the holes left by a short spray of bullets is a
lurid notice reading: "JUKSKEI PARK EXPRESS INAUGURAL FLIGHT".
Using the word "flight" is Togetherness's own little practical
What we are witnessing is the inaugural leg of what is hopefully to become
a daily service between Jukskei Park and Johannesburg, a 25 km journey
which takes 10 minutes - less if the pavements are unobscured.
The percussion waves
from Togetherness's powerful radio ("borrowed" from a BMW Z3)
pushes back the early morning mist. He is playing Boom Shaka's latest
low frequency hit at 120 dB (how low can we go?). He hoots as he drives.
Togetherness hoots at everything he sees - including trees - as is the
custom of his fellow taxidrivers.
On board the taxi are a dozen white people. They do not come whiter than
this. They are Omo white. But they were not born white. No, their pallor
is due to fear and stark terror. Take John Mlela. Never in his life has
he done 0 to 100 km/h in six seconds, especially not in heavy traffic.
Denise Mthaba's colour has changed from green-black to a soft waxen ivory
as quickly as the last traffic light had changed to red (a colour which
traditionally prompts taxi drivers to make even more haste).
Togetherness frequently looks over his shoulder while driving even for
a full minute at a time - asking passengers their destinations. Elizabeth
Mkize, sitting right at the back, has the opportunity to say "Rendberg
Centa" even though she works in Johannesburg CBD. Randburg was coming
up fast and it suddenly seemed near enough for her. She worries about
how she will make her way to the front, but only fleetingly - the taxi
had reached Randburg and Togetherness had stopped.
He had stopped as suddenly as a plane might stop against a mountain. Now
everybody is at the front in a warm, intimate pile. Elizabeth alights
as gracefully as anybody can with one knee locked behind the other. She
is vaguely aware of passers-by loosening her clothing and shouting: "Give
her air!" Togetherness bowls happily along Jan Smuts Avenue, overtaking
a police BMW in pursuit of a getaway car. Then he overtakes the getaway
car as well, exchanging boisterous greetings with the driver whom he recognises.
Togetherness is steering with his elbows because he needs his hands free
to check the morning's takings and to wave at girls on the pavement. What
is even more remarkable is that Togetherness is doing this despite his
taxi not having a steering wheel.
The spanner that Sipho has attached to the steering bolt in its place
is totally adequate. Togetherness smiles and turns to his passengers as
he accelerates past
a truck on a blind rise. He announces: "Ladies and gentlemen, thees
ees your keptin. We will shortly be lending in Johannesberg. Plis make
sure your seat belts are in the upright position, end your seats are fastened.
Thenk you for flying with us today. We hope to see you soon again."
John Mleka is gripping the seat in front of him so tightly that he notices
his fingertips have gone transparent as a passing taxi fires a short burst
of automatic gunfire in his direction. Togetherness now reaches the city
and merges with the inbound-traffic like his ancestors merged with the
British at Isandlwana. He stops at his usual disembarkation point in the
middle of an intersection and picks his teeth patiently while people sort
out their legs and arms before groping their way towards a pole around
which they can throw their arms. By the time his passengers' eyeballs
have settled back in their parent sockets Togetherness is already halfway
back to Jukskei Park with another load of passengers.