My name is Joel Ndwandwe and I am a Putco bus driver. I suppose you hate me already. But before you call me a Putco dog or another horrible name, please do me a big favour. Give me a couple of minutes of your time. I want to tell you something.
In case you didn’t know, let me tell you something for a start. We don’t own the buses. The company does.
A company called the Public Utility Transport Corporation. Or just Putco.
And we drivers work for Putco. We are workers and we drive buses. Some people work in furniture shops. Other people work in jam factories. We drive the buses.
And we all had mothers as well. We weren’t born on the buses, you know. We also have rent to pay and children to feed. Yes, we do have children.
So when things worry you, they worry us too. We don’t like high rents. We don’t like Bantu Education. And we like to have friends. Everybody needs friends. So why give us a hard time? Why give us a headache?
Like when you don’t want to pay. I’m tired of you young ones jumping on and saying “Heyta Grottie” – and then running to the back without paying. And the big sexy women with their big sexy smiles. They call you “Iovey” and think they don’t have to pay.
And the old people. They put their hands in their pockets and search. And search and search. And they smile and say “Ngisabheka itikiti, mkhwenyana – I’m still looking for my ticket, my son in law.”
You know sometimes I get up feeling happy. I look forward to a new day. I get up early. Remember, I’m the one who takes you to work. I’m up while you are still dreaming and snoring.
But it doesn’t matter. I feel happy – until you get on the bus with a big smile on your face and give me a R20 note. Where, I ask you, where must I get change at 5 o’clock in the morning?
People are in a hurry, vou know. And if you didn’t know, look around. There’s a long row of people behind you.
But for some of you, that’s not enough. You want to get us fired. Like when the inspector gets on and you say “The driver did not give me a ticket.” What can I say? Some of you are older than me.
And then we get you really nasty ones. You walk in. You don’t pay. And when the inspector asks for your ticket, you show him a ten cent piece. “Here is my change,” you will say. “The ticket costs 90 cents and this 10 cents here is my change. If you want to see my ticket, ask the driver. He is looking after my ticket.”
And the inspector Iooks at me. I know that look. It means he will talk to me later. And when you get off the bus, you say in a loud voice, “Ulayekile, bayasirobha – they deserve it because they rob us.” And some of you will even say, “Badurisa amabhasi – they make the fares go up.”
We don’t want the fares to go up. Remember, I told you some of us have mothers. And some of us even have children. When fares go up, our mothers and children also pay more. S’true.
And you always throw stones when we drivers are inside. You don’t throw stones at the buses parked at the depot. I sometimes think you love the buses – but just hate the drivers.
And sometimes we must run for our lives. We take our uniforms off and run. And when we get back to the depot, they ask “Where’s the cash bag? Where’s the bus?” The questions are difficult to answer. Maybe the bus is lying in a ditch. Or maybe the bus has no more windows. Sometimes the questions are difficult to answer.
Now let me tell you a big secret. Some of us bus drivers care about you. We even like you. We have a trade union. And in our union we fight for better wages and better working hours. We fight together for a better deal. For us and for you. We ask for more buses – so you won’t have to stand in long rows. We want you to find a seat after a hard day’s work.
And by the way, why do some of you stand right next to us – and just stare. All the way from town to the township, you just stare at us. If we are so beautiful, why do you hate us so much?