Mom drives ‘iphela’ to feed her children
Updated: Nov 20, 2019
When Philiswa Nako (47), a single mother of two lost her ‘nice’ job at a popular finance company in 2011, during the heaviest period of the country’s recession, she had no idea how they would survive. Raising a seven and a 21-year old in Reeston, Nako had one asset to depend on, her vehicle.
“I immediately decided to sell clothes from my house but I wasn’t making enough money to sustain my family, so I decided to get into the transport industry,” she said. Her first contract was to transport East Londoners who work in King William’s town and later she took up contracts for primary school children’s transportation.
She still holds those contracts with parents of children who attend Westbank and George Randall Primary School. She gets up at 5 o’clock to prepare her daughter for school and prepares herself for the early morning rush.
She then picks up the children at around 2pm. This left her with an entire day to herself. Not anymore. Two years ago, she decided to join a fast-booming industry popularly known as ‘amaphela’, small vehicles that transport locals to any corner of the Metro, a convenient business that compliments the minibuses that strictly operate on the Metro’s main roads.
When she joined the male-dominated East London Taxi Association, she turned heads
and was not as welcome. “When I first started, fellow younger taxi drivers did not respect me. They would order passengers out of my car and take them into their own cars. I paid them no mind and they stopped.
Even today, most of the adult drivers pretend that I am not here, and ignore me,” said Nako. Passengers were perplexed at this ‘Mama’ doing what is predominantly considered a man’s job. “Even now people still ask me, Mama are you a taxi driver? and I always laugh and say yes. There is nothing wrong with a woman working in the taxi rank,” she chuckles.
She is one of very few registered female taxi drivers in East London. Her son, Lutho Nako (21) is concerned about his mother’s safety in the taxi rank but she is optimistic that things will get better with time and she can go back to work.
“I am determined to make this work for me and my children, this is what I can do for now and it puts food on the table so I don’t see a reason for me to leave this job,” she said.