Combi, minibus, share taxi, or kombi is how most all of us international students get around Port Elizabeth. If you are interested in different articles about the combi and the experience of riding them I linked to some really good articles in the first sentence, each link is to a different article. I don’t think you can really say that you’ve visited South Africa unless you’ve taken a combi. The combis in South Africa generate $3.7billion in revenue annually. On a daily basis they move 15 million people around the country. That’s staggering! That means in a country of approximately 52 million people, 28% of the population utilizes this form of transportation.
I finally asked one of the drivers I know a question I’d had since visiting South Africa in 2013, which was “How do you compensate the helper?” Just to give you some background, a lot of drivers will hire a helper to help them get riders and sort out the money during the day. These are the infamous men you hear yelling, “Town! Town! Town!” And they have an eagle eye for spotting potential riders down the side streets. Shane told me a Xhosa name for these guys (I’m embarrassed to say I forgot) but that they get paid a flat rate for their work. Shane told me that he pays his helper R150/day, plus he guys them lunch and snacks. He told me “Whatever I eat, they eat.”
I’ve ridden on some sketchy combis but I’ve always felt safe when riding. I wish I was a less conspicuous passenger because I would love to ride along and just observe. But now you know a bit more about combis!