There’s a lot of vested in­ter­est at Bree Street rank

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

EEP calm and be kwaal-free. That’s the ad­vice on a sticker on the back of a taxi head­ing out of the Bree Street rank down over Nel­son Man­dela bridge and on to­wards the M1 South. It’s en route to Soweto, hus­tling on the high­way along­side other driv­ers packed full for Chi­awelo, Mapetla, Naledi, Pimville, Protea Glen, Protea North, Se­naoane, Dube, Nance­field, Phe­feni and Rockville.

Other minibuses out of the rank rum­ble east down Bree to Jules Street and Yeoville; oth­ers, north to Rand­burg, Fair­land and Grey­mont. It’s a re­lent­less turnover of rain­coats and um­brel­las in the queues. Bleak out­side un­der an op­pres­sive over­hang of week-long cloud, it’s gloom inside un­der the dim light­ing shin­ing off the greasy pud­dles of rain. The smell of urine clob­bers your senses. The steps are slip­pery.

But it’s busy as ever yes­ter­day, the day after the United Taxi As­so­ci­a­tion Front staged a wild­cat strike over per­mits – the leg­endary kwaal stick­ers,

Kde­scrib­ing the crush­ing of the spirit, all over its lever­age. There was a dif­fer­ent mood on Mon­day. Around the cor­ner of the rank in Gwigwi Mr­webi Street – named for the big 1960s kwela star – rene­gade driv­ers had slapped out hunks of meat on a braai the size of a shack.

Shel­tered un­der tent­ing in the driz­zle, their spot dou­bles up as park­ing and a car­wash. But there was no driv­ing out of there that af­ter­noon. They’d tum­bled out of the lot and into the street, some wav­ing beers at pass­ing traf­fic, some wav­ing car parts.

The of­fi­cial ver­sion was that the strike was unan­nounced, but the traders who pay about R300 a month to run their ta­bles inside the rank say they didn’t show up on Mon­day. They’d been told to stay away. By yes­ter­day, they were back with their polony and white bread sand­wiches and scones sweat­ing in plas­tic bags. The gold ex­change was open, and Doc­tor Shoe­maker was tak­ing out his spin­ning wheels and dusty files.

On Mon­day, the musk of gang­ster­ism was all over this space, while on the other side of the bridge, in Braam­fontein, feet padded the quiet car­pets of the board­room where the provin­cial port­fo­lio com­mit­tee on roads and trans­port meets.

This is one of those re­cur­ring nightmares for the city czars, who can’t overex­er­cise their in­flu­ence on the prov­ince. Only two-thirds of taxis in Gaut­eng are el­i­gi­ble for per­mits and a re­prieve from e-tolls, while the oth­ers are not. It isn’t a rare prob­lem and it has been around for a long time. But de­lays have punc­tu­ated the year with vi­o­lence, and Joburg, La­gos of the south, will al­ways feel that in its mar­row.

Even if the Noord Street rank is the busiest of the nine in the city it­self, and the one where the miniskirt be­came a po­lit­i­cal act, it’s Bree that al­ways seems to have the guts for a fight. It has the back­ing of the prof­itable route north, and it has the blood­ied his­tory of 2010 when it was in the van­guard of the vio- lent strike against Rea Vaya ahead of the World Cup. A man died dur­ing those clashes. Some com­muters still line up in rel­a­tive trep­i­da­tion there, day after day. Some say if you step out of line, you could get a warm klap. So it’s bet­ter that you don’t change your mind.

In Fe­bru­ary, some driv­ers of the Na­tional Taxi Al­liance strik­ing over e-toll ex­emp­tions did much the same there as they did on Mon­day: in­tim­i­dat­ing as they pa­trolled the area. Bul­ly­ing, and yank­ing peo­ple des­per­ate for a lift out of pri­vate cars. Bang­ing with fists and flat hands on the bon­nets of cars when there was no es­cape and threat­en­ing to set rush hour on fire.

The rank’s breezy free­dom ar­chi­tec­ture, with its grand col­lec­tion-bas­ket doors, took 10 years and R100 mil­lion to get go­ing, and it has been around for another dozen, serv­ing 200 000 daily.

But there’ll al­ways be a twist in that happy heart.

Bree’s business isn’t a game.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.