A Day in the Life of a Taxi Driver [column]

Eric Nauta Shipopyeni makes a living driving a taxi around the copper town of Tsumeb. He motivates other taxi drivers to be kind if they are to survive in the small town.

“Difficult” was the word he used to describe being a taxi driver in Tsumeb.

According to the 21-year-old and the third born in a family of seven, a good relationship with passengers is what gets him through the tough days. “Names are tricky therefore I make it a point to remember the homes of the people that use my taxi. Everyone appreciates this and in Tsumeb kindness goes a long way, especially during the dry days,” he said.

“Unlike in big towns such as Oshakati and Windhoek there are days when it is completely dry, really dry, and after 10 days during the dry spell the likelihood of you going home with as little as N$150 is real,” added Shipopyeni.

“People here tend to use taxis only at a certain time during the month and unless you have regular customers calling you to take them places you are doomed. Being kind therefore helps because people can bail you out,” he added.

Shipopyeni explained it was not uncommon to find three or more people footing while a taxi driver is cruising by in search of passengers. “On my way to pick up a regular I can find someone else who needs transport, which is a bonus for me because many other taxi drivers would be transporting only one person to town or to the location at the time,” added Shipopyeni. Shipopyeni finished his secondary education in 2011 and started looking for funds to further his studies in 2012. “I realized that it was up to me to make my dream of becoming an accountant a reality. I started driving a taxi in 2013, but my days behind the wheel are numbered,” said Shipopyeni with youthful enthusiasm. He adds that being a taxi driver is demanding, although he makes around N$8 000 to N$9 000 a month. He not only drives in Tsumeb but transports passengers to the nearby Grootfontein so there is not much time for anything else. “This is a tough business being on the road by five o’clock in the morning and going to park after 20h00 – it is exhausting. There is no time for Namcol or anything else for that matter because every minute that I’m not on the road I am losing money,” explains the taxi driver.

Problems faced by a taxi driver in a town like Tsumeb are demands from the taxi owners who, according to Shipopyeni, can be unrealistic and the lack of passengers because competition is tough. “Taking a customer anywhere gets you only N$10 unlike in big towns where it is double that amount, unless an individual is going to Kuvukiland but where the roads are simply horrible and damage to your car is more than likely,” Shipopyeni said while shaking his head.

Source : New Era