ON any given day in Joburg, bus and taxi drivers spend their working hours racing around the city, taking people to and fro.
But yesterday, instead of work, about a hundred public transport operators spent the day exploring and experiencing new places across the city. The tour they were on, Know Your City, concluded Transport Month.
It was aimed at teaching them about Joburg’s with legacy sites, as well as thanking them for their contribution to the sector.
On the day, the member of the mayoral committee for transport, Rehana Moosajee, accompanied 100 public transport operators, including bus drivers, minibus taxi drivers, metered taxi drivers and transport managers on the tour.
Among them was Eric Motshwane, the director of corporate affairs in the Rea Vaya bus operating company, PioTrans.
The tour began at Constitution Hill; here operators learned about the history of the liberation struggle and the hardships that prisoners were subjected to in the apartheid years.
Operators were continuously amazed by the stories; for most of them it was their first visit to the hill. They went through an orientation at the prison cells, where the story of the racial inequalities between whites and black prisoners was told; the tension in the room could have been cut with a knife, as they listened with interest.
Chris Malekane, a Rea Vaya driver who was visiting for the first time, could not believe the brutality with which prisoners were treated. “I have never been here before. This kind of history is really an eye opener to me. The freedom we are enjoying today did not come cheap; it is our responsibility to treasure it. One day I will bring my children here.”
From Constitution Hill, it was a trip in a luxurious Metrobus coach to Johannesburg Zoo, were they took a walk to admire the wildlife. Also in store was a drive in an open-topped ferry to see the king of the jungle, the lion; as well gorillas, monkeys and baboons.
Lemuel Thamane, a Putco driver, said: “[The zoo] is a nice family outing. I have never been here in my whole life. It is a great experience, I tell you.”
Thamane, who was recently voted the 2011 Joburg driver of the year, said the tour would help drivers a great deal. “We will be able to assist tourist. We will bring them to these places.
“I have been driving in Joburg since 1990, but believe me, I have never had an opportunity to visit Constitution Hill nor go inside the zoo.”
The highlight of the day for many was a two-minute ride in a Gautrain from Rosebank to Sandton. It was a whole new experience for operators, who took their first trip on the speed train. They could not wait to for the train to arrive, and were delighted when it took off.
Once in Sandton, the crowd flocked to Mandela Square to admire and pose for pictures next to the 6m-tall bronze statue of Nelson Mandela.
The last destination was the historic Liliesleaf Farm. Here they toured the property and learned about the events that led to the birth of democracy in South Africa, the Rivonia Trial.
Liliesleaf Farm was bought by the South African Communist Party in 1960s and for a long time it served as a hideout for senior ANC and Communist Party leaders.
It was also the headquarters of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the ANC’s military wing that was formed with the sole purpose of overthrowing the apartheid government. Mandela, and MK commander, lived undercover on the farm, where he posed as the caretaker, using the name David Motsamayi.
So interested were the operators as the stories were told, that they constantly asked questions.
Earnest Kholopha, a Putco driver, said: “This is a place where every Joburg resident must visit. It is amazing to hear of the events that took place here. I have lived in Joburg for the greater part of my life but I have never heard of this place, the thing is it is so hidden.”
Also speaking at Liliesleaf Farm, Motshwane said the tour was important in motivating employees. “At Rea Vaya we normally have events and outings for our drivers just to show them that their work is appreciated and valued.”
He said motivating employees was important in developing a competent workforce. “We do this regularly. During the Soweto Open we took our drivers there to refresh and take a break from work.”
A number of such events were still on the cards. “We will soon take our drivers to Rand Airport, the transport museum and other important places in the city.”
Concluding the day’s long activities, Moosajee encouraged operators to drive safely. “We are going into the dangerous period of the festive season. Let us abide by the rules of the road. Most importantly, let us put customer service first. What makes commuters feel important is the welcoming approach; let us treat them with respect.
She also urged operators not to forget the hardship and sacrifices of the struggle heroes.