The taxi gaatjie dealing in positive change
Shrill whistles pierce the air, interspersed with hoots and shouts of “Cape Town!” The calls of taxi guards are a quintessential part of city life, recognisable to anyone who uses public transport. Yaseen Abrahams is one of these gaatjies. He’s been collecting money and guiding people in and out of taxis since he was 16. Abrahams used to give what he earned to his late mother, a pensioner who struggled to live off her monthly funds. She passed away two years ago, leaving Abrahams without his initial reason for working as hard as he did. But though he had lost her, he still had his drive to help. The best way he knew how was by providing free taxi rides to the elderly.
“My biggest motivation was my mother,” Abrahams says. “She was the one that never gave up on me.” Because of her, he understood the difficulties faced by pensioners who depend on taxis. “There’s going to come a time in life when you’re going to get disabled with two crutches or in a wheelchair. Then how you going to go to the mall?” Abrahams says. “That’s where I come in.” Together with taxi driver Ashraf Cassiem, he offers free transport to pensioners every day. His initiative developed into a programme, ‘Taxi Give Back’, which calls on other taxi drivers and gaatjies to do their part for their communities. Abrahams also visits old age homes to inform retirees of his initiative, bringing mobility back to the elderly.
After appealing to other taxi drivers through Facebook, Abrahams’ post went viral and caught the attention of his community newspaper. “My mother, she would’ve been crying now, because I never expected this,” he says. Abrahams’ selflessness shows that it doesn’t take much to make a difference in the lives of others. “I’m not Superman,” he says. “I’m just a normal guy with a big heart.” Sometimes, that’s all you need.