Taxi Sir!

A typical friendly greeting from one of Rhodesia's taxi drivers
A typical friendly greeting from one of Rhodesia’s taxi drivers.

The visitor to Salisbury will find the taxi drivers are polite, helpful and always ready with a smile – in fact amongst the friendliest in the world!

Business visitors and tourists to Salisbury, Rhodesia’s capital city, have available one of the cheapest taxi services in the world, and certainly far cheaper than that of most of the worlds capitals. And, further, Salisbury taxi companies offer a 24-hour service , 365 days a year, with no charge for extra passengers or luggage.

These taxi fares, in Rhodesian dollars and cents (at mid 1970s prices), speak for themselves:

                                             Flag fall             per km


  mini-cab                             15 cents            12½ & 10 cents

  ordinary                              18 cents            16 cents

London                                 40  cents            34 cents

Canberra                              30 cents             30 cents

Washington                          25 cents             43 cents

Johannesburg                       35 cents             20 cents

A taxi radio control room
A taxi radio control room


Salisbury’s extraordinarily cheap fares are partly due to the introduction of mini-cab services.  So popular have they become over the years that today 90 per cent  of the fleets of the three tax companies are mini-cabs, with the size of some of the taxis now not so mini – Datsum 12s and Renault R12s, all in very good condition.

There are three major taxi companies in Salisbury (A1, Cream Line and Rixi Taxis) and over 200 cabs. These make a colourful contribution to the city scene, for the vehicles are painted in a variety of reds, greens, yellows, etc.

Cream Line Taxis advert
Cream Line Taxis advert


No cruising is permitted, but there are seven taxi ranks spread out over  the city, some of them near the main hotels. The biggest taxi rank is on the side of Cecil Square, opposite the Anglican Cathedral, in the heart of the city.

Like elsewhere, to assist visitors and tourists to Rhodesia, many stores and hotels have direct private lines with taxi companies. Taxis can be ordered by telephone from anywhere fairly quickly, for even the mini-cabs are radio-controlled.

A typical standard and mini-cab taxi
A typical standard and mini-cab taxi


All Salisbury taxi drivers are Africans, although one company employs a European lady driver for special occasions. All have to pass rigorous tests before they are licenced for a possible position with one of the taxi companies. They must have a completely “clean record” as far as the police are concerned, are thoroughly tested by the municipal authorities on their knowledge of the city and environs, and their medical certificates are carefully checked and must be renewed every year.

Each year in Salisbury alone, between 600 and 700 men, mainly Africans, apply to become taxi drivers, but most of them either fail to make the grade or there are no vacancies. What makes this such an attractive occupation? On an average a taxi driver, on a 25 per cent of the takings, can earn between R$80 and R$100 per month, plus tips (which are about 10 per cent of his earnings).

Most African drivers are polite and obliging – they do get out to open the door for you – and their driving skill is at least on a par with that of white drivers in Rhodesia or South Africa. They are always careful to obey speed limits, and often inspire such confidence that regular customers ask for a certain driver when ordering a cab by phone – a service that cannot be equalled in many capital cities, Another useful service offered by the company are books of taxi vouchers.

The taxi rank at Cecil Square, Salisbury
The taxi rank at Cecil Square, Salisbury


In Bulawayo there are four  main taxi companies, ten taxi ranks, over 160 taxis, and all the drivers are Africans.. Taxis are available up to midnight..

There is one main taxi company in Umtali, with seven taxis , one of which is a mini-cab. In addition, there are many privately-owned African taxis. But the fares in Bulawayo and Umtali are much higher than that of Salisbury:

                                         Flag fall            per km

Bulawayo                         30 cents           20 cents

Umtali                              30 cents           18 & 13 cents

The need for taxi services in most Rhodesian holiday resorts is virtually nil, as visitors either come in their own cars or on organised tours, where transport facilities are already catered for.

At Victoria falls taxis are available, but there are none at Kariba or Inyanga. Car hire facilities, however, are available in both these areas.


Rixi Taxis advert


Photos by Alan Allen.