The sheer volume of minibuses on Johannesburg roads makes taxi drivers regular bribe targets. Comparing their pay with that of metro police prompts the question of whether salaries affect the bribe drive.
While there are five metropolitan police departments nationwide belonging to metro councils – Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town – our focus in this article is on Johannesburg.
A recent metro police research document shows the breakdown of salaries within the Johannesburg unit as:
- New recruits get paid R2 000 a month for the initial six months of their theoretical training. In the following six months, where individuals undergo both theoretical and practical training, the recruits will then receive R4 200 per month.
- In accordance with the City’s standardised salary bands – which stipulate salary structure – newly appointed (qualified) officers are paid according to the minimum salary band of R8 760.
- Officers with six to 12 years of service are placed on the median salary band and earn a minimum of R10 000 a month, while those employed for more than 12 years will receive the maximum salary of over R13 000 a month.
- Qualified JMPD officers’ studies are also paid for (or subsidised), providing the area of study adds value to the officers’ career within the JMPD. This would include computer studies as well as law degrees and other fields of law enforcement studies. Officers are required to pass every course or reimburse their funding.
Given the cost of living in South Africa, a salary of R13 000 a month for 12 years of experience does not seem like a lot.
But compare this to the earnings of the average urban taxi driver, who is usually not the taxi owner. He earns between R1 500 and R2 000 per month, which can go up to R6 000 a month if the driver is paid R200 a day, as some are. Bear in mind, though, that this is for a driver who would work a 30-day month.
In some instances, Corruption Watch sources suggest, the taxi owner demands R800 a day from each driver in his fleet, and anything they earn over and above that they can keep.
This could well be a factor in allegations that such drivers often break traffic laws to get to the next passenger, allow too many passengers into the vehicle and appear bad-tempered on the road.
Added to the taxi driver’s woes is the fact he is more likely to be stopped than your average motorist and threatened with fines or, alternatively, offered a “lighter sentence” – the infamous “lunch money” or bribe. This must, of course, come out of the driver’s pocket.
Unlike JMPD staff members who have access to free or subsidised further education, taxi drivers do not have such luck, according to our sources.
In order to “better himself”, one driver – who asked to remain anonymous – said he would have to save up enough money to buy his own taxi and then secure a route for an employee to operate in, while he continues to drive for his boss.
“I have a family – two children. It will take a long time for me to save enough money,” he said.
Studying, for most, is not an option at all, given that it would take place during the very time that the driver would be earning a living on the roads.
“It is also not affordable. How will I pay for this?” the source asked.
While some believe that paying law enforcement officers higher salaries will make them less likely to take a bribe, others suggest that the higher up the ladder they go, the more expensive the bribe will be.
However, it isn’t just the officer who feels entitled to take a bribe – some individuals deem it better to “pay” a police officer than to pay the government. It is this attitude that must be changed among South Africans for bribery to be rooted out at the source and for citizens to unite against this crime.
How does New York compare?
To take the debate further, Corruption Watch sourced information on what the prospects are for JMPD cops’ counterparts in New York, US.
Obviously to fully compare such salaries, one must take into account the cost of living in both countries, but it is still interesting to note these figures from the New York City Police Department (NYPD).
An NYPD officer with more than five-and-a-half years of service receives double the salary he or she did at academy or training level.
While cops would have started their career with a salary of U$44 744 (R350 411) per year at training level, this would have gone up to US$90 829 (R711 324) per year after five years.
And the cabbie?
Cabbies, as New Yorkers refer to their taxi drivers, work on a different loading system to Johannesburg’s minibus taxi drivers. Where minibus taxis take multiple passengers at a time, New York cabs – as we’ve seen in movies – take only one passenger at a time.
According to an ex-cab driver, total expenses to run the cab are about US$140 (roughly R1 000) per day. The average fare he or she will receive is about US$9.00 (R70) and drivers can average about three fares per hour.
That's 33 times US$9 coming in, making their daily revenue about US$300 (R2 350). Then, US$300 minus the US$140 in expenses leaves them with US$160 (R1 250).
These are fairly optimistic figures, though – the average is probably more like US$100 per day (R782).