SA taxi industry timeline: 1930 to 2020
The legal transportation of black South Africans by black people is made almost impossible by the 1930 Motor Carrier Transportation Act, which made it illegal to transport goods or passengers without a permit. It was virtually impossible for a black person to obtain a permit to operate public transport.
1950s – 1960s
Taxi operators in the 1950s and 1960s invested in large American sedans such as the Chrysler Valiant, Dodge Monaco and the “Six Mabone”, the nickname given to the 1965 Chevrolet Impala, with its six taillights. This nickname is nowadays used for anything that is really cool. Drivers could transport six adults at a time and blend in with the other cars on the road. Most public transport was provided by the state-owned rail sector and the subsidised bus industry.
The 1977 Road Transportation Act is introduced, and minibus taxi operators find a clever loophole. The legislation defines a bus as a vehicle that carriers more than nine people. A bus required a permit to operate. By leaving one seat in their 10-seater vehicles open, drivers operated without permits, using vehicles such as the Datsun E20.
The taxi industry is legalised and recognised by government, although the number of permits is restricted. The first taxi association in South Africa, the South African Black Taxi Association (SABTA) is established, bringing together over 60 000 taxi operators. Seven-seater vehicles are dominant in the industry, as well as the VW Kombi and Toyota HiAce.
The 16-seater vehicle gains dominance in the industry, including the Toyota HiAce Super 16, Nissan E20 and the Isuzu Relay. The HiAce quickly gained the nickname, “Zola Budd”. The South African Olympian Zola Budd became famous in the 1980s for her long-distance running achievements. Her name has become one of the most well-known motoring nicknames in SA. The HiAce gained the nickname both for its ability to cover long distances in a day, as well as for its longevity.
Toyota vehicles, such as the Toyota Quantum, gain dominance in the industry.
The industry sees the introduction of Chinese-manufactured vehicles into the South African taxi market. The Golden Dragon is the first of a number of these vehicles to hit the South African market after 2010.
Newly-established minibus taxi financier, Bridge Taxi Finance, introduces more Chinese-manufactured vehicles into the market. Focused on renewing the South African minibus taxi fleet, the company specialises in delivering high quality, safe vehicles. Vehicles such as the Jinbei H1 and H2, Golden Dragon and Joylong are seen with increasing frequency on South Africa’s roads.
The taxi industry is firmly established as a crucial element of the country’s public transport system, transporting almost 70% of its work force on a daily basis. While it is sure to play an important role in the country’s future, the industry may well look very different in years to come, with disruptions such as new technology in energy, automated and driverless vehicles and no-cash systems, on the horizon. Vehicles such as the Foton View CS2 are seen as the vehicle of the future.