Noord Street taxi rank in Johannesburg. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES/ERIC MALEMA
Noord Street taxi rank in Johannesburg. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES/ERIC MALEMA

Bumper-to-bumper traffic is a nightmare all commuters in Johannesburg face. It’s as familiar to us as our homes, and has formed part of the authentic “Joburg experience”. No-one, no matter how skilled, is as agile in traffic as South African minibus taxi drivers. Though their traffic violations can be useful to someone who’s in rush, generally the lives of commuters are at risk. There’s a need in the taxi industry for greater monitoring of drivers, rank managers and the installation of a mechanism that enables swift communication between taxi officials and commuters.

This may finally become a reality with the new Khwela App. The Khwela App is intended to digitise taxi rank networks and create stronger links with commuters to raise awareness and handle alerts, queries or emergencies directly on the platform. Khwela aspires to have a bird’s-eye view of what is happening daily in our taxi ranks.

Commuters make the taxi industry possible — however, there has been very little room for commuters to lodge grievances with the relevant associations or even make suggestions.

The app will also make life easier for commuters who may not be sure where a taxi for their destination is available. Stopping to ask people (if you don’t have a chance to search online on the #Twoogle hashtag) isn’t always the safest option.

Imagine clicking on an app and seeing all the different routes available for your travel and the various places you can commute from without having to stop and ask strangers. This is a much-needed innovation. It’s time to bring the taxi industry into the 21st century and put power into commuters’ hands. We have a tendency to magnify mankind’s mind-bogglingly complex inventions. But sometimes it’s the simple technologies that truly change the world and make life easier.

The minibus taxi industry has been vital for the South African public transport sector. Since its inception in the late 1970s, it has grown to become the most accessible mode of transport for SA’s ever-growing workforce. This R40bn industry handles 65% of the 2,5bn annual passenger trips in the urban environment and serves as the base-load public transport carrier during peak as well as off-peak times. Khwela is intended to play a pivotal role in innovating a complex and rigorous but ageing sector.

The taxi industry provides an invaluable service to millions of South Africans. Consequently, it’s important to begin amplifying the voices of those who matter the most in this value chain of exchange — the commuters. This will yield positive results for the taxi industry and will finally usher in a new era for South Africans.