As my eldest cousin, I always knew Charmaine Bailey, 56, was going to go places. As one of the first cousins to move out on her own, she inspired us all to achieve our dreams and that the world was our oyster.
Charmaine was the chairperson of one of Cape Town’s biggest taxi routes, the Wynberg/Hout Taxi Association and a former executive member of the Bonteheuwel Taxi Association and was passionate to see change in the industry, always willing to help where she could and bring warring parties to sit around the same table.
She was also the training officer for the Cape Amalgamated Taxi Association (CATA) regional taxi council.
The Wynberg/Hout Bay route transports thousands of people every day and managing the different drivers and players in the sector is no easy task, but taxi drivers believed that this “iron woman” had their best interest at heart.
An entrepreneur, businesswoman, and leader within the taxi industry and within Cata, Charmaine believed that the empowerment of taxi drivers was essential. As one of only a handful of women, Charmaine was committed to seeing the sector recognised for the importance they play in society. While the industry is often viewed with suspicion in many communities, the reality is the taxi sector is the backbone of our transport sector, love it or hate it and yet it does not receive any state subsidies.
It is here that Charmaine believed she had a role to play, introducing training and new ways of working.
Charmaine grew up in Lavender Hill and was never going to accept the narrow trajectory of so many other women on the Cape Flats. The reality is that in the 1980s, working in a factory for many young women who grew up on the Cape Flats was what lay ahead but Charmaine wanted more, and she completed matric at Lavender Hill High School, a first in the family.
She entered the banking sector and worked in the sector for many years. At First National Bank, her quick thinking and hard work saw her rose up in the sector.
Always up for something new and challenging, Charmaine retrained as an estate agent, looking at how to get more families from the Cape Flats into their own properties, even in areas like Constantia. Here, she worked with young families on how to negotiate the best deals with banks and get them into their dream homes.
She later spent time in Bonteheuwel, where her grandparents and mother grew up, and she got involved in the local taxi association. She was elected secretary of the group.
Charmaine was loved and admired for her dedication, commitment, go-getter attitude, and for always going the extra mile.
Her passion was to see ordinary taxi drivers empowered and change the face of the sector, and her passion and commitment to the industry saw her leadership recognised and she was elected as a senior leader within Cata.
From Bonteheuwel, Charmaine then moved over to the Wynberg/Hout Bay Taxi Association and was elected treasurer. The association had so much faith in her that they elected her as chairperson.
As a mother to her only son, Caleb, whom she doted over, it was her dream to see him prosper and reach for his dreams both academically and in the sporting world. She could not be more proud when he graduated with a law degree from the University of the Western Cape.
Charmaine was full of life and with her infectious laughter and zest for life she was ready to enjoy life to the fullest. One of her favourite past-times was travelling. She recently returned from a European trip to visit her best friend Stella in Germany. She also had some special VIP treatment while watching a Manchester United game while she was in London, visiting Benni McCarthy, a family friendship that had spanned many decades.
The eldest daughter to Peggy and the late Ralph Bailey, Charmaine looked after her parents, siblings and always inspired her nieces and nephews to achieve their dreams.
She really just wanted “to do good, make a difference in the sector, and make others better”, her son Caleb told me.
The brutality of my cousin’s murder at the hands of gunmen is difficult to imagine, and her mother finds it hard to comprehend the brazenness of it all. Here was someone who was working to change the face of the sector, and yet for that she paid the ultimate price, gunned down in broad daylight.
Charmaine leaves behind her mother Peggy, son Caleb, sisters Brigette, Lucy, brother Hayrem and several nieces and nephews.
She will be missed and her tragic death will be mourned by all.
• Crystal Orderson is an international broadcast journalist and political analyst.