While most people associate conductors and taxi drivers with poverty, these men endure the scorching sun and voice strain providing a service to people, helping them move from place to place, while making a living at the same time.
Isaa Gahitira, a conductor of one of the taxis that ply the Remera – Nyabugogo route, admitted that his job is quite stressful although he earns a living from it.
“Before becoming a conductor, I was a waiter at a restaurant in Remera where I earned Frw30, 000 a month. For a man, that was very little money because I needed to pay rent and buy basic things I needed. So I tried looking for another job with no success. I had whined and cried about being unable to make ends meet until a friend of mine, who is also a conductor, took me to the taxi park.” he said.
Contrary to what some people think, Issa says that this job is like any other. As long as one has set their mind on doing it, it really isn’t that hard.
“All you have to do is wake up early in the morning and go to the park before others, talk to any driver and then work for him as a conductor that day. Of course some of the conductors deal with a particular driver but usually that is after you are certain that the driver wants to work with you on a permanent basis.”
That is how he started his career.
“I started and fortunately I got a driver who let me work with him daily. I earn Frw2500 every day but I also get some extra tips from the driver. It has brought a great improvement in my life. I can afford to eat decent meals and pay my rent,” Gahitira said.
The biggest problems at work are rude passengers who either pay less than they are supposed to or hurl insults at him over the slightest matter.
“At the end of the day, the money you get is not equivalent to the amount of sweat soaking your shirt or the shouting you’ve done throughout the day. But we survive and also get to take short breaks between work,” the conductor said.
If you thought conductors shout the most, then think again. Taxi brokers beat these conductors hands down.
Taxi brokers are the people who stand around the stage directing passengers to particular buses. In Kigali, they are mostly stationed at places like Sona tubes and Chez Lando bus stops, and can be heard calling for passengers going to town and Nyabugogo. “Twijyanire Nyabugogo” is what they ask as you approach the bus stop while others slyly plead that “umuntu umwe niwe usigaye gusa” (only one person is left) even though when the taxi is only half full.
Simon Butera (not real name), a taxi broker at the Sona tubes bus stop just in front of the Rwanda Tourism University College, says he earns a decent living – enough to pay for fun filled weekends.
“I dropped out of school in Senior One for a number of reasons but what’s important is that I take care of myself thanks to my job. All I do is to agree with the conductor and work to fill as many taxis as I can. The driver pays me Frw100 for every filled taxi. It may seem like very little money but on a good day I can fill over 50 taxis,” he narrated.
Butera added that he appreciates his earnings as he has a roof over his head and food to eat.
“I have worked at this stage for about seven months now and my biggest challenge is that some conductors refuse to help and leave all the work to us. Another challenge is the poor earnings on weekends and on public holidays,” Butera said.
Luckily for him, his consistent work at the stage has made him familiar to most of the taxi drivers. He also claims that the Sona tubes stage as his own.