Minibus Taxis Johannesburg's informal transport industry

Noord is the second biggest taxi rank in the heart of the Johannesburg Central Business District (CBD), transporting people to the suburbs and the townships, and as far as Pretoria. The taxi industry has created many jobs outside of the formal employment sector.
Noord is the second biggest taxi rank in the heart of the Johannesburg Central Business District (CBD), transporting people to the suburbs and the townships, and as far as Pretoria. The taxi industry has created many jobs outside of the formal employment sector. | © Lerato Maduna

Photographer Lerato Maduna took to Johannesburg's major taxi ranks where she documented the daily life of taxi drivers.

Mobility is a prerequisite for any city to function. So how do people who cannot afford a private car get to where they need to be in a city as sprawled out as Johannesburg, where public transport fails to efficiently connect the various commercial centers and residential areas?

Every day, thousands of so-called minibus taxis haul passengers across town along the major traffic routes. The cityscape is characterised by mostly white Toyota Quantum buses or alternatively colourfully painted minibuses of other makes, adorned with bumper stickers and easily identifiable as taxis by their reckless driving style. Minibus taxis have established themselves as a commonly used option to public transport means such as metro buses, trains or the ultramodern but expensive Gautrain. The taxi industry creates a large amount of informal jobs, including auxiliary services such as street vendors, also referred to as hawkers.

Photographer Lerato Maduna took a closer look at Johannesburg‘s major taxi ranks Bree, Noord and Wondrous where she spoke to taxi drivers about their daily lives.

A long busy day at the taxi rank

  • The taxi industry creates jobs © Lerato Maduna
    Noord is the second biggest taxi rank in the heart of the Johannesburg Central Business District (CBD), transporting people to the suburbs and the townships, and as far as Pretoria. The taxi industry has created many jobs outside of the formal employment sector.
  • Long working hours © Lerato Maduna
    A taxi driver working at the Noord taxi rank in Johannesburg´s Central Business District takes a nap while waiting for his turn to transport passengers to Vosloorus on the East Rand. Taxi drivers work long hours, usually from 4am to 9pm.
  • Mdu © Lerato Maduna
    Mdu, age 37, has been a taxi driver for years; he started driving a taxi when he could not get a regular job. He services the Vosloorus Johannesburg return route. What he loves about his job is that he takes money home every night and does not have to sit in an office all day long with a supervisor watching him.
  • Mandla © Lerato Maduna
    Mandla, age unknown, is a queue marshal at the Noord Taxi rank in Johannesburg´s Central Business District. His job is to register incoming taxis in the morning, collect their rank fee and throughout the day, help passengers find the right taxis for their respective destinations. He loves his job as he considers himself a people´s person and enjoys helping others.
  • Ancilliary industry © Lerato Maduna
    Informal traders cater to taxi drivers and commuters at Noord taxi rank, selling food, sweets and cigarettes. Like their clientele, they arrive in the wee hours of the morning and only leave late in the evening. Hawkers are sometimes subjected to stock confiscation and abuse by the police who are infamous for such acts.
  • Noord taxirank © Lerato Maduna
    Noord is the second biggest taxi rank in the heart of the Johannesburg Central Business District (CBD), transporting people to the suburbs and the townships, and as far as Pretoria. The taxi industry has created many jobs outside of the formal employment sector.
  • Bree, Joburgs biggest taxi rank © Lerato Maduna
    Bree, Joburgs biggest taxi rank Bree taxi rank in Newtown is the biggest rank in Johannesburg. Taxis departing from Bree transport passengers to many parts of Gauteng province.
  • Lift clubs as a transport option? © Lerato Maduna
    A billboard on Joe Slovo Drive, encouraging the community to use lift clubs in order to reduce traffic congestion. Many people prefer private rather than public transport as they deem taxis unsafe. Yet the majority of people still have to rely on public transport, such as taxis, to get from point A to B.
  • Many feel Gautrain is not for ordinary people © Lerato Maduna
    Taxis waiting outside the Gautrain station. Many feel that Gautrain is for the rich population and not for ordinary people to use on a daily basis, unlike taxis, regular trains, or buses.
  • Dreaming of a life as a farmer © Lerato Maduna
    Oxy Gabada, 37, from Botswana, has been working as a taxi driver since 2000. He got into this line of work for the love of driving. The only thing he doesn´t like about his job are the police. “Cops... Cops... Cops...” he says, “when they see taxi drivers they think ‘free money’”. Oxy would like to move to the countryside and become a farmer in the near future.
  • Round-the-clock operation © Lerato Maduna
    Taxis at Wondrous rank operate long-distance routes to other provinces and neighbouring countries; services run from 4am to 10pm.
  • Sharing the spirit of Ubuntu © Lerato Maduna
    Bangani Maekane, 48, from Tshepisong, has been working as a taxi driver since 1998. He got into this line of work by hanging around with taxi drivers. While he enjoys working with different kinds of people and sharing the spirit of “Ubuntu”, he dislikes miscommunication and bad attitudes from passengers.
  • Long hours and long distances © Lerato Maduna
    Taxis at Wondrous rank operate long-distance routes to other provinces and neighbouring countries; services run from 4am to 10pm.
  • Joburg skyline © Lerato Maduna
    Noord is the second biggest taxi rank in the heart of the Johannesburg Central Business District (CBD), transporting people to the suburbs and the townships, and as far as Pretoria. The taxi industry has created many jobs outside of the formal employment sector.
Lerato Maduna is a freelance photographer from Johannesburg. She documented Johannesburgs informal taxi industry for this feature.