History of the Minibus Taxi Industry in South Africa

March 27, 2023
3 min read

The minibus taxi industry has played a significant role in the transportation sector in South Africa. It emerged in the late 1970s and early 1980s as a response to the apartheid government’s failure to provide affordable and accessible public transportation for black South Africans. In this blog, we will delve into the history of the minibus taxi industry in South Africa and its impact on the country’s economy and society.

The Origins of the Minibus Taxi Industry

During apartheid, black South Africans were subject to segregation laws that separated them from white South Africans in almost every aspect of life, including transportation. The government provided public transportation for white South Africans, but black South Africans had limited options. They were forced to rely on inadequate and unreliable modes of transportation, such as buses and trains. In the townships, informal modes of transport, such as bicycles, wheelbarrows, and pushcarts, were common.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, a new form of transportation emerged in the townships — the minibus taxi. These taxis were small vans that could carry up to 16 passengers and were operated by private individuals. The taxis were cheaper and more efficient than the government-run buses and were able to navigate the narrow and winding streets of the townships, where larger vehicles could not go. The minibus taxi industry grew rapidly, with thousands of drivers and operators joining the trade.

The Growth of the Minibus Taxi Industry

The minibus taxi industry continued to grow in the 1980s and 1990s, despite opposition from the government, which saw the industry as a threat to its control over the transportation sector. The government attempted to regulate the industry by imposing strict licensing requirements and cracking down on unlicensed operators. However, the regulations were difficult to enforce, and many operators continued to operate without licenses.

The industry also faced challenges from other forms of transportation, such as the Gautrain, a high-speed rail network that was introduced in 2010. However, the minibus taxi industry continued to be a popular mode of transportation, particularly in the townships and rural areas.

The Impact of the Minibus Taxi Industry

The minibus taxi industry has had a significant impact on the economy and society in South Africa. It has provided employment opportunities for thousands of drivers and operators, many of whom would have been unemployed otherwise. The industry also generates significant revenue for the government through taxes and licensing fees.

The minibus taxi industry has also played a crucial role in connecting people in the townships and rural areas to the cities, where they can access jobs, education, and healthcare. Without the industry, many people would have limited options for transportation, which would have had a negative impact on their quality of life.

However, the industry has also faced criticism for its safety record, with many accidents and fatalities reported each year. The government has attempted to address these issues by introducing safety regulations and enforcing licensing requirements, but many operators continue to flout the rules.


The minibus taxi industry has been an essential part of the transportation sector in South Africa, particularly for black South Africans who were excluded from public transportation during apartheid. Despite facing opposition from the government and other forms of transportation, the industry has continued to thrive, providing employment opportunities and connecting people in the townships and rural areas to the cities. However, the industry also faces challenges, particularly around safety, and will need to continue to adapt and evolve to remain relevant in the future.