Taxi gaatjie Mbalula

Taxi assistants, or “gaatjies”. Photo: Twitter/Salty_Said

Mbalula: Taxi drivers must speak to passengers with ‘sweet, mellow voices’

Mbalula has told taxi drivers to speak to passengers politely”like one would be spoken to on an airplane” by a host or hostess. .

Taxi gaatjie Mbalula

Taxi assistants, or “gaatjies”. Photo: Twitter/Salty_Said

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has instructed taxi operators to adopt a gentle cadence when they speak with their passengers, hoping that the tone of exchange that will be heard during the notoriously chaotic, bustling commute begins to resemble something more akin to the “sweet, mellow” customer service one may expect on an airplane. 

Frankly, the practical likelihood of that ever being achieved seems like a long shot, but Mbalula has a new project he wants to work on where the taxi industry is radically formalised.

Mbalula dreams of a ‘formalisation and professionalisation’

Speaking at a briefing of the Economic Cluster regarding recently amended level 3 regulations and how they apply to taxis and other means of public transport, Mbalula took some time to outline his plans for the future. 

“We are nowhere near where we want to be,” he said, adding that the department is four-years behind its target in terms of modernising South Africa’s public transport mechanisms. 

“It must be cheaper, it must be accessible, and most of all, it must be safer.” 

“You can be in Europe, take a train, and you are safe. We want [South Africa’s taxis] to be like that. This is the dream we are dealing with now.”

Taxi drivers need to speak professionally, like airline hosts 

Mbalula then insisted that taxi operators and staff need to sharpen up on their manners and the way in which they offer service to their clients. 

“We want it to be supported by state intervention, but should Coronavirus return at a later stage, it must find our house intact.” 

“We want full formalisation of the taxi industry,” he said, clarifying that this is a separate concern to the need to “professionalise” the sector by instructing operators and staff to speak nicely and graciously to patrons. 

 We want to professionalise [the taxi industry],“ he said. “This means we look at the industry’s image – the driver must know how to speak to people, his service must be proper.”

This, he said, should be in line with the treatment one receives from the lovely men and women working as fleet-footed, helpful stewards on airplanes, permanently fixed smiles and all.

“[It should be] like when you enter an aeroplane and that sweet voice can be heard, telling you the distance and when you can eat,” he said

“There is that ‘mellow’ type of voice that keeps you informed. I’d like to see this in taxis.”

Gaaitjies, we assume, will have to change up their patter. No more “yells of “Cape Town! Wynberg!” – you can now look forward to a far more soothing prompt to use the service, rather than what generally comes across as a jarring instruction