Psychologist and counsellor Banetsi Mphunga (28) has turned his minibus taxi into a treatment room.
“My medium term goal is to have 10 of these,” says Banetsi, tapping on the steering wheel of his minibus taxi. His spectacles are pushed up to his forehead as he drives down Steve Biko Road in Khayelitsha. He narrows his eyes to tiny slits, against the sun’s glare and assesses the traffic before making his way around a traffic circle. “With 10 of these around the country, I’d be able to reach so many more people. Treatment wouldn’t just be restricted to Khayelitsha.”
Why a taxi?
A little over three months ago Banetsi decided he wanted to address the lack of psychology clinics in Cape Town’s townships. It was while working at a youth programme with high school students in Khayelitsha, that he realised a lot of them had no outlets for the varying psychological problems they were going through. “Some of them were expressing problems they’ve had for up to eight years. When they approached their schools for counselling, the response time was anything from two weeks to three months. That’s way too long. Some of these problems needed immediate attention.”
At the time, Banetsi — a registered psychological counsellor — was in the process of opening his own private clinic. He decided to use the R28 000 in his savings account to buy a minibus taxi, which is the mobile psychology clinic where he offers counselling to people in his community (Khayelitsha). The taxi travels to schools, parks and homes offering free counselling sessions and life skills to people in his neighbourhood. “A kombi is spacious enough to hold a consultation, so I figured that would be the easiest way to reach as many people as possible.” The taxi sessions take place at the back of the kombi where Banetsi and his patients sit opposite each other. However, he says, the minibus sessions are only an entry point to formalised counselling sessions in his office in Mandela Park. “I realised that if I don’t have an office I report to, people won’t take this seriously. So I don’t run the sessions in taxi indefinitely. Just once or twice to break the ice and establish rapport with the patients.”
Expansion and the future
Banetsi has already hosted a few informal sessions in his taxi, but says the minibus still needs some improvement. “The interior still needs work,” he says pointing to a patch on the ceiling that’s begun peeling. “Last week, I took the kombi in for mechanical repairs. Now I need to tint the windows (for client confidentiality), add some air conditioning and have it reupholstered. It’s all coming together slowly.”
In the long term, Banetsi envisions having 50 minibuses dotted across the country’s townships. He currently has a funder looking to sponsor his second mobile clinic and hopes this will be the spark that gets the fire going. “My plan is to have 50 of these across the country, providing counselling to at least 500 kids a month. There’s a clear shortage of psychological treatment across the country’s townships and I hope to address that.”
All images by Rofhiwa Maneta
Originally published at the Red Bull Amaphiko website.