While tuk-tuks have become a familiar sight on the roads of Johannesburg suburbs such as Sandton and Melville, it is still unusual for the three-wheeled taxis’ drivers to be women. Namujju, 37, moved to South Africa from Uganda in 2016. Before she relocated to the country, she worked as a vendor in one of Uganda’s markets until her stall was burned down. Namujju said the incident forced her to learn how to drive a tuk-tuk and take it up as her daily job to provide for her four children. She then decided to move to South Africa with the hope that there would be better opportunities. After struggling to get employment, she was helped by friends and became a tuk-tuk driver based in Melville. Long working days Popularly known as “Mama Tuk-Tuk”, Namujju operates around Braamfontein, Fordsburg, Greenside, Westdene and other nearby suburbs such as Sandton, Rosebank and Soweto at fees ranging from R20 to R150.”When I came to South Africa there were no job opportunities for me. I saw beautiful women who drove buses and worked everywhere and I decided to drive a tuk-tuk again,” she said.Mama Tuk-Tuk said her day starts at 05:00, Monday to Sunday, and often only ends at 23:00.She said she has clients ranging from school children to professionals.She said she receives overwhelming support from her regular clients and sometimes works with tourism entrepreneurs. One of those initiatives includes driving tourists in collaboration with Lebo’s Soweto Backpackers.Namujju remains steadfast against some of the challenges she faces as a woman driver in the city, and she says she doesn’t allow incidents to shake her. She described a day when taxi drivers pounced on her while she was transporting a client who works in Auckland Park.”One day I got a call from my client who works at Absa, she said she trusts me and I should transport her to Cresta. As I was about to drop my customer one taxi driver came and pushed my tuk-tuk down,” said Namujju. ‘Strong, bold and hard-working’ She said incidents such as this did not deter her, and she remained motivated because she loves her job. “People of South Africa call me Mama Tuk-Tuk, they say they love Mama Tuk-Tuk and so that’s my name,” she said. Several of Namujju’s colleagues describe her as “strong, bold and hard-working”. Jajah Baker, a fellow tuk-tuk driver, said Namujju actually has more clients than the male drivers, as clients trust her. “She has not yet faced any problems. Some customers sympathise with her because she is a lady. Actually, she has got many customers, more than us men. When people come they say ‘let me take the lady’ because they see that she is the only lady around,” Baker said.Ssendyose Isaac, who is also the spokesperson for the Auckland Park Tuk-Tuk Association, said he has been working with Namujju for two years.”Prossy is a hard-working and determined lady. She’s so different from other ladies, she’s even more tougher than some men that I know,” he said.Isaac added that Mama Tuk-Tuk was treated equally and there was no discrimination against her because of her gender.He said the association for drivers was formed to handle numerous problems faced by drivers.”We face so many challenges working under pressure, so we found that we had to find an association where all of us drivers can be protected. Even for you to register in order to get your licence and work around, you need an association, you can’t work as an individual,” said Isaac.
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