When Thabo Reginald Tsolo was asked by his ABI managers to resign from his position as a driver and promised an OD contract, he waited three anxious months for the necessary documentation. He found himself adrift in the grey zone between his old life as an employee and his new life as an entrepreneur. When the contract finally did materialise, Tsolo was so broke that he was in no position to question the p’s and q’s. “Sign, signature, sign, initial. Like that,” he said. By DAILY MAVERICK CHRONICLE.
The contract, he soon found, was a Kafkaesque money-trap. As an independent owner-driver, he was discouraged from delivering for any company other than ABI, and he was obliged to transport ABI product on ABI’s “horses”—industry argot for trucks. According to the Truck Tractor Lease Agreement appended to the contract, “the Owner Driver shall pay to ABI in respect of the use of the Truck Tractor a monthly rental equivalent to R7967.40 plus VAT thereon.” This was another way of saying that he was now paying ABI for the use of a vehicle he was previously paid to drive. Cleaning, washing, fuel, oil, lubricants, maintenance and shortages were suddenly added to his operating tab. He could not deliver to the district of his choice, but was instead assigned the East Rand’s Bedfordview depot. This was terra incognita: Tsolo and his crew would often find themselves in Alexandra at midnight, looking for outlets in the pitch dark.
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Photo: Rows of trucks wait to be loaded up with soft drinks for the day’s deliveries. Photo credit: Shaun Swingler.