40 year love affair

Meet Bobby Govender, a retired teacher with a passion for Toyota

Retired teacher Bobby Govender has been a Toyota driver since 1980 – and he’s passed on his love for the brand to the next generation.

Throughout the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s, Bobby Govender was a fixture at the high schools of the greater Durban area. Working as Mr K Munsamy (his father’s surname) he was a popular and successful maths teacher. Outside the classroom, you could instantly recognise his car in the teachers’ parking lot: it was always a Toyota.

“I was a school principal for more than a decade, so I suppose if I wanted to, I could have afforded one of those German cars that some of the other principals were driving,” he says. “But I never left Toyota. I loved the reliability. None of my Toyotas ever let me down.”
Govender’s love affair with Toyota began in 1980, when – after a few years of driving some of those other marques – he purchased a new Toyota Sprinter. “I bought it from a dealership on Monty Naicker Road in Durban,” he recalls. “It cost R6 000 – which doesn’t sound like a lot in today’s money, but you have to remember that I was earning only R120 a month back then. I got a good deal on it – and I’ve bought most of my Toyotas from that dealership for the past 40 years.”
When he talks about that 1980 Sprinter, it’s clear that Govender fell in love – hard. “That Sprinter is still my favourite car,” he says. “It was orange, with those famous stripes down the side.”
In the early 1980s, the sub-compact Sprinter was marketed as a sportier version of the Toyota Corolla, and is often mistaken for its better-known stablemate. But thanks to its 1800 engine and 5-speed transmission, the Sprinter is remembered fondly by those who drove it back in the day.

Govender taught at eight schools in total, including in Umkomaas, Mount Edgecombe and Chatsworth. “I taught twice at Arena Park in Chatsworth,” he says. “I was a good maths teacher, but if I wasn’t learning from the principal, I would move on. I didn’t want to waste my time.” He ultimately settled at Avonford Secondary School in Phoenix Unit 15, northwest of Durban central. “I taught at Avonford for 33 years – including many happy years as principal – until my retirement about 10 years ago,” he says.

During that time, teachers and learners got used to seeing a Toyota in his parking bay. “It may have been the Verso, which I drove for a while, but it was usually a Corolla,” he says. “And whenever fellow teachers asked me, I always recommended Toyota. Colleagues would tell me they were thinking about buying this car or that, and I’d always tell them, ‘You’ll wait a year for parts for that car. You should get a Toyota, if for no other reason than reliability. You can’t beat it.’ Young people have a tendency to look for style over substance; they don’t appreciate how important reliability is in a vehicle.”

A family man, Govender has six children – three of whom drive Toyotas.
“There are four Toyota vehicles in the family,” he says. “My eldest son Jevendren drives a silver 2002 Corolla 1.6 GLE. Magandren, who lives in Cape Town, drives a silver 2013 Sprinter 1.6; and Sumeshen drives a bronze 2016 Corolla 1.8 CVT.”

As for Govender, he too is still driving a Toyota. “My current car is a super white Toyota Corolla 1.8 GLE automatic,” he says. “It has the CVT transmission system. I’ve always had a manual; it was one of my sons who recommended I try an automatic. I have to say I love it – especially in stop-start traffic. I’d never trade it!”
Govender has bought all his Toyotas brand-new. “I don’t buy second-hand cars,” he says. “I know that this means I have to pay a bit more, but my philosophy is this: why should I buy second-hand, and entertain other people’s problems? With a brand-new car, at least I know I’ll take care of it.”
Given his 40-year track record, you can trust that he’s telling the truth.