Commuting to a more gender-equal leadership destination

The South African government’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions aren’t the only driving force behind the winds of change blowing through the commuter transport industry. Across the sector, women have assumed leading roles and are guiding the industry along a more representative, sustainable, and safety-focussed path.  During the month of August, specialist insurance Underwriting Manager for the Commuter Taxi and Bus industries CTU, is highlighting some of the amazing women who are transforming the industry and helming the drive for change.

Among these leading ladies are Lorraine Sifuba, gender affairs Chairperson at the National Taxi Alliance and Thandazile Buthelezi, Chairlady of uMzinyathi region for the Nqutu Pioneer Taxi Association.

Lorraine has been involved in the sector for more than 24 years; since she was first elected as the deputy chairperson of the DORLJOTA (Dobsonville Roodepoort Leratong Joburg Taxi Association) Women’s League. The mother of four represents women in all NTA executive meetings, coordinates events in the gender section, works on any conflicts or grievances and attends events under NTA’s corporate social responsibility portfolio. She first got involved in the industry after marrying a taxi operator and owner and since then, became the first nationally elected female representative in the National Taxi Alliance in 2006 and helped develop the first female charter, which serves as a guideline for women operators in the NTA.

“I love the fact that I have a front row seat in the industry, which gives me a full view of its traits, principles and protocols, as well the industry’s challenges. This also provides me with a platform to contribute and create mechanisms to ensure that we can include and develop women as entrepreneurs and business owners across the sector,” Sifuba says.

Women are a tour de force in the industry

Buthelezi has also been in the industry for a quarter of a century, first entering the space after the passing of her husband in 1995.

Back then, there were no women in major positions, and the opinions of female members were ignored by those in power. Through her passion and dedication, she has turned this narrative around. In fact, after inheriting the business from her husband who had only a single taxi at that stage, she subsequently built it up to include four taxis and two private cars. In addition, she expanded her entrepreneurial repertoire with the incorporation of a catering and decoration business.

A typical day in the life of this mother of three usually consists of helping women with operating permits and, on occasion, with deceased ownership transfers. She loves seeing women acquiring complete ownership of a business that’s rightfully theirs and, getting to help women on a daily basis which she feels, is the real blessing.

Buthelezi says that the women in the industry are united in the mission to develop themselves and contribute to the economy despite their circumstances. Women are also less aggressive than their male counterparts and naturally have a non-violent nature. She feels that as more women enter the industry, the less propensity there is for occurrences of aspects such as taxi violence. Moreover, she says that women have been the supporting structure behind the men in this sector and have unfortunately, had to assume the business responsibilities without skills development and or training at times.

Consequently, her advice to women wanting to work in this industry is to develop their business management skills, stressing that women are capable of achieving anything they set their minds to. “We should therefore not limit ourselves or, allow anyone else to for that matter. This is an industry which requires skill, Ubuntu, respect and patience as any other business does. As women, we are capable, strong enough and will naturally bring a breath of fresh air to the industry,” she says.