By Tatenda Chitagu
MASVINGO — From a mere glimpse, her kombi looks just like any other at the bus terminus.
The radio is turned full blast, playing King Shady’s latest offering, and the music is piercing through the passengers’ ears.
A closer inspection however reveals that the conductor — popularly known as hwindi or tout in street lingo — loading the vehicle is a young woman.
“Are you the conductor, and which route is this kombi taking?”, a female commuter asks 25-year-old Rodia Singende who replies, “Majange-Yeukai! Jump in and let us go!”
Singende is one of the few female kombi conductors in Masvingo who has challenged the traditional stereotypes by venturing into this largely male-dominated field, which involves shouting, banging the door to signal a stop, whistling, as well as loading passengers’ luggage while the vehicle is in motion.
“It is now two years since I started working as a conductor. However, I managed to be where I am because my husband also works here. So he understands. Besides, you can survive, and in fact it is better than sitting at home,” she says.
The couple has two kids who remain with her mother-in-law, when she goes to work. But she admits balancing work and family life remains a puzzle to her.
“We leave our kids with my mother-in-law. But I have to admit that it is possible to balance my work and family, it’s difficult.”
However Singende has successfully fought the tag placed on commuter omnibus conductors. They are generally a rude, foul-mouthed and shabby lot.
“You have to be smart and have time to clean up yourself since you are someone who works with the public.
“There is also need to treat the customers well, so that next time they will come back to your kombi for a ride,” she said, as she plastered her dry lips with lip glow, which she took from the dashboard.
Her driver, Henry Mushwayi said it was a marvel to work with a female kombi conductor.
“We also have very few conflicts with passengers and this could be because ladies generally have good public relations and they always apologise if they make mistakes,” said Mushwayi.
He added kombi owners generally preferred women kombi conductors because they were trustworthy and did not cheat when it came to accounting for the day’s earnings.
However, much as she enjoys her job, Singende says fellow male kombi conductors look down upon her.
“The public actually appreciates me more than my workmates,” she said, as she hung precariously to the door of her kombi which was filled to capacity, as our interview came to an end.
By Tatenda Chitagu