A taxing change

Graeme Raubenheimer author

I wasn't in Pretoria when the words left his lips, giving journalists their ‘catchy top line’ for the day. I was in  Cape Town, locked in Parliament for several hours.

After crawling back to the office later that afternoon, one of my colleagues hurled a  quirky remark at me. I was left confused, pondering what he meant by "whites and taxis"? I shrugged off the comment, later realising he'd been referring to a recent news article published by one of my Jo'burg colleagues.

Out of sheer curiosity, I searched the keywords "white" and "taxi" on Twitter, and it wasn't long before I spotted that catchy headline.

I wasn't there when Deputy ANC Youth League President Ronald Lamola told Pretoria University students that, "South Africa will only be a rainbow nation when white people queue in taxi ranks and use government hospitals." Somehow I wish I was, just to gauge the audience's response.

My reaction? Ironically, at the time I was reading the article, I was traveling in a minibus taxi in the Cape Town CBD.

I'm a white twenty-something-year-old male.


I've been taking mini-bus taxis for the past five years.


And yes, as I glanced over the short article in the cramped taxi, my blood began to boil, if only a little.

I hate stereotypes and I felt the victim. I asked myself, "How can Lamola paint South African whites with the same brush?" I stammered on, "I often take the taxis! I don't have a car! I'm white!"

"I've once witnessed taxi violence, been sardined into taxis, and personally seen the door fall off a minibus while it was speeding towards Bellville!" I continued.

I had to cool off, before I read the rest of the article. Later I discovered Lamola made reference in his speech to Soshanguve and Loftus.

I paused. I admit my knowledge of areas up North isn't that great -I'm a Capetonian - so I wasn't completely sure about the complexities of these areas. But Lamola had also made a blanket statement and his remarks referred to the whole of South Africa.

It got me wondering. Has Lamola ever visited the Mother City? Despite the public debates about whether Cape Town's racist or not, I can truly say through experience, that I often see white people using public transport systems, government hospitals and clinics.

And that includes taxis, Mr. Lamola.

But let me also admit that when I started catching minibus taxis, there was a general perception that whites were bound by an unwritten rule never to use them. Then again, I'd like to say I've had a small hand in changing that over the years, and these days I see more whites climbing on board.

The same goes for my brother, who god rest his soul, passed away last year due to a long battle with renal failure. He had in fact received world-class treatment at Tygerberg Hospital - a state-owned facility. During my many visits there, I noticed a fair balance of whites, coloureds and blacks.

Perhaps my experiences in Cape Town cannot be found in all the other cities, towns or townships, and maybe some taxi ranks won't ever see a white face. But Lamola I beg of you, next time you make such a bold statement, think about those who are trying to make South Africa the "true rainbow nation" you say you'd like to see.

There may not be drastic change now, but trust me, I'm doing the best I can, taking one taxi at a time.

Graeme Raubenheimer is an Eyewitness News reporter in Cape Town. Follow him on Twitter @GraemeRauby