In my daily commute, I usually travel by Dhaweeye taxi service, which is a convenient means of transport compared to the state of public transportation. Ordering a taxi is relatively trouble-free apart from the occasional misunderstanding about the location which requires from the customer an extensive knowledge of the street landmarks, popular venues which usually hold strange nicknames.
The majority of drivers are friendly, chatty and not bothered by the heaps of dust accumulated on the interior of their cars. If you raise that with them, they are ready with a long list of excuses justifying their uncleanliness. Last years drought, the dusty roads that literally does not exist, the avaricious corrupt local government, the maniac behaviour of fellow drivers: all these, and many others, can be angrily blamed for the dust on his dashboard.
Instantly, after you take your seat and agree with the driver on the destination, he usually resumes a monologue conversation about, seemingly, some crucial topic which you did not follow when it started and how it began. Interjections from your side are not usually welcome or are met with a loud voice of fierce disagreement.
To add weight and some credibility to his running commentary, the driver braggingly claims to have earned several university degrees, or at least have just started studying for a university degree. This is a simple suggestion that he is well informed and understands what he is talking about; your role is to give an approving nod with occasional sounds of active listening.
There are invariably themes in their topics of concern where they exhibit a strong resentment and anguish. The most recurring issue taxi drivers feel aggrieved about pertains to the local government. The grievances are consistently the same: extortionist taxation, ill-treatment from the local government officials, systematic neglect of roads that have been left to deteriorate to the stage where nothing remains to be repaired.
They usually conclude their disclosure with the rhetorical question of Why the local councillors were allowed to remain in their positions beyond their mandate? Why were they allowed to exploit further, swindle, and loot the public without accountability?. Obviously, I have no convincing answer for that question, but I try to show a shared frustration and offer an empathetic ear trained to listen.
Most of the Dhaweeye taxi drivers are under the age of thirty with an ambition of establishing themselves into something successful, mainly making more money and creating their own businesses. Many of them frankly express their desire to immigrate, or that they have actually planned and tried the experience. Still, at some stage, they decided to let go temporarily of their dream due to absolute pressure from relatives.
Few will bitterly admit that they were misinformed about the prospect of a better life in Europe. They state with measurable certainty that their conviction is to have faith and work hard for the future in their country. For these group of young men, what seemed to be an imposed abandonment of a precious aspiration turned into unreserved indignation for those holding the forsaken title “diaspora”.
If the conversation veers accidentally into the diaspora territory, one immediately feels the intense sentiment towards some types of expatriates. The list of crimes they are guilty of is long and frightening. Unsatiable corruption and greed, sense of entitlement with complete lack of skills and knowledge, delinquency and promiscuity, fomenting tribalism and discord among various parts of the society: those are some of the heinous offences the diaspora are accused of.
I do agree that some expatriates have brought abhorrent practices with them; however, the constructive contribution of our diaspora communities to the country are both vital to many sections of the local and extremely significant for the country.
Having the patience to hear, sympathise with and understand the concerns, fears, and future ambitions of these ordinary people will enable us to relate with them. It will give us the ability to grasp their version of reality, ponder on their experience of what drive young people to despair and force them to put their lives in peril precariously.
What is daunting about the future is that there is no substantial political plan that appeals to a large section of society represented by the taxi drivers of Dhaweeye and alike. The current political climate lost their interest and do not assure them of the future.