When her husband died, Nthabiseng Keroane, a mother to twins, was working as a community worker, doing a lot of projects to uplift the community. Because she had been previously exposed to the patriarchal nature of the taxi industry, her late husband would always tell here that should he die, she should close shop and sell the taxis they owned. She’s always imagined that that is exactly what she would do should the unthinkable happen and her husband died.
That was until her husband’s death.
Even though they knew that her husband had died, and she was in mourning, the men at the taxi association did nothing to update her about her husband’s business. When she eventually gathered the strength to go to the association, she did not feel like she was taken seriously.
This made her question how many widows go through the same experience. She decided not to sell her taxis, but rather join the association and change things from the inside.
She is now a training officer and runs the Bereavement office, which she founded when she joined the association. She felt very strongly that the association needed a bereavement office to cater to widows. “They do not induct widows in the taxi industry, you just have to find your way,” said Keroane, sitting in her office at the Witwatersrand Taxi Association (WATA) offices in Soweto.
Keroane said when she joined, there were women who were already in the association, but they were too silent because this male-dominated industry can be very intimidating. She said even though in the African culture, men and women are not equal but when it comes to business, they must all be equal.
“They [men] need to understand that as black people, yes, we will always respect them, but at the office we are on the same level” said Keroane
When talking about the taxi violence that we often hear about, Keroane said it is very scary for a woman in this industry. She said when these incidences happen, they as women try to talk to their male counterparts to find amicable ways of resolving issues, ways that do not include violence and loss of life.
She continued to say that men need to understand that as much as they think that this business is about them and their cars, at the end of the day, they cannot make a living without the community and their duty is to serve the community. “This is not just about ownership, this is business, and they need to understand that they are businesspeople,” said Keroane.
"There seems to be a problem when it comes to communication and voicing our opinions and ideas because the more truthful you are, the more you might become a target of these killings" said Keroane.
That is why Keroane believes that women's involvement will bring about change in this industry, since they possess a motherly nature. If they can fix their homes, they can fix this industry. “Men are dying in this industry, most men are dead, and we are left, in the long run, women will be running the taxi industry.”
Keroane said even though at times she feels unsafe and scared, because of other women in the industry that have bills to pay and children to take care of, she cannot be silent in those plenary meetings. “Yes, I feel unsafe at times, but I become a comrade and say I am getting in here, and I want this fixed”