A vehicle that carries six to eight people in comfort and style, and where used for public transport, can accomodate up to twenty people. The original minibus was the Volkswagen van that is often seen with footage of 1960s era travelling hippies and surfers. A Combi.

These days Toyota, Volkswagen and other car makers make vehicles that fit this description. Some are fitted out as public transport, and some are kitted out for civilian use.

Since the 1980s, minibuses have been used as public transport in South Africa (and throughout Africa - in Kenya they call them Matatu, elsewhere it's daladala) in manner very similar to a jeepney. These vehicles are refered to as minibus taxis, african taxis or just taxis.

This is grassroots private enterprise, filling the opportunities that the state's stransport system left open. They started by going to and from townships and squatter camps that weren't on the train lines. Now they are everywhere.

As such this industry is unsubsidised, initially unregulated, has taken a while to gain official acceptance, and is often linked to organised crime, with violent turf wars.

The etiquette of using a minubus taxi is quite similar to that of a jeepney.

How to tell if a minibus on a South African road is in fact a taxi:

  • Does it have tickers reading "Taxi", "Emergency exit-force out glass" or with the emblem of a taxi association membership.
  • Is it packed with people?
  • Does it make suprise stops to offload passengers and to take others onboard?
  • Is there a diver's assistant leaning out the open side door and yelling a destination while the minibus is moving?
  • Does the minibus have a name on the rear? Names derived from hollywood movies or sexual prowess are common. Real life e.gs: "Lethal Weapon 2", "Final Destination" and "Just another Lover"
  • Is it obeying a different set of trafic rules, one that seems to consist of Do what thou wilt ?
  • Does it have numerous dents and scrapes?
  • Does it have improbably loud funky music blaring out of it?
  • Is the driver armed and dangerous-looking?

Min"i*bus (?), n. [L. minor less + -bus, as in omnibus.]

A kind of light passenger vehicle, carrying four persons.

 

© Webster 1913.

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