South Africa 2008 - Emergency Taxis (Combis)
Taxis in South Africa are not safe. I'm not talking about metered cabs, I'm talking about what we called "ETs" or Emergency Taxis in Zimbabwe. Basically Minibuses on a fixed route, stuff with people. Almost always Black People.
For many (most?) this is the only way to get around. You've either got a car, walk, or take a Taxi. There are nearly 130,000 taxis in RSA. They have no seat belts, or the belts are not used. They often run with the doors open. Once in Zimbabwe I was asked to hold the passenger side door to look shut as it had fallen off the hinges.
They'll pack you in like you've never been packed into a vehicle. You'll sit on laps and hang off the side. You'll hold on for dear life and listen to fights and honks. Sometimes a cab will encroach on another's turf and you're in the middle of it.
You stand by the side of the road in known, but unlabeled spots, and you make a hand signal. Point a finger up to say you want to go to town. A finger pointed down if you want a local taxi for somewhere near. There's many hand signs that you just pick up as lore. For example, there's a route down the street that will take me to the Clearwater Mall for 6 Rand (about 60 US cents) per person. I hold one finger down, and say "NgiyaeClearwater" to make sure they are going that way, and I'm off. I could just say "Clearwater" or speak English, but I feel that if I speak Zulu, or whatever the local language is, depending on where you are catching the taxi, that I'll be less likely to be messed with or talked about. This might just be me, but I've found that if you have a great accent with even a few words, folks assume you're totally fluent until proven otherwise. I'm not...I have the Zulu-speaking abilities of a kindergartener, but I can click effectively.
So far, in eight years, I've seen two other white folks in taxis. It's apparently just not done. I've also been harassed (in Zulu) by a drunk man who said "they take our land and now they are riding in our taxis."
All this said, I wouldn't recommend taxis in South Africa if you have another option.