There was a change of scenario at Civic Centre taxi rank in Vanderbijlpark, south of Johannesburg, yesterday, with men walking around wearing white shirts and ties.
These were not men selling insurance policies but were taxi drivers who have become part of the taxi industry transformation where drivers are required to wear formal clothes three days a week and a golf T-shirt for two days so as to look representable and professional in the industry.
The idea came with Gauteng chairperson for the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) Buti Mkonza.
Molefe Mpitso, 48, a father of three from Civic Centre Taxi Association, said when he woke up in the morning he felt proud of himself and for the first time he left his house in Sebokeng a happy man."I have always felt that to be a taxi driver is just to keep myself busy. I never took my job seriously but today I felt something different. My passengers were shocked to see me in formal clothes and everyone greeted me with respect.
"You know, when you look good you also feel good. I like the idea of wearing formal clothes as that means passengers will no longer look down on us and hopefully they will understand that this is also a job that put food on the table for our families."
Another taxi driver, Mandla Hlomuka, 36, from Vaal Taxi Association, said he hoped passengers will treat them with respect. "They can't be calling us abomageza empompini (people who wash themselves at the tap) when we look this good," Hlomuka said.
Mkonza said they decided to activate a proper dress code to all Santaco taxi drivers. "I did the same thing about eight years ago in Ivory Park. I am now rolling it out in the whole province and the aim is to transform our taxi industry and our drivers," he said.
"We expect them to change their behaviour and the way they treat their customers and motorists on the roads."
Passengers were also impressed to see the drivers in formal clothes. Lerato Johnson, 22, said taxi drivers were disrespected because of the way they conduct themselves.
"I hope that they will also start taking their job seriously and stop swearing at people when they feel like it," he said.
Mirriam Mthimkhulu, 63, said the change of dress code was a good idea as the taxi drivers looked clean and representable.
"When they look and feel good they won't be disrespecting their passengers. Today, the taxi rank was in a different mood, we did not even hear them swearing at passengers," Mthimkhulu said.