On the road

Public Pro­tec­tor wants trans­port de­part­ment to ex­plain why taxis are still op­er­at­ing

CityPress - - News -

com­mit­tee to in­ves­ti­gate il­le­gal panel van con­ver­sions with Nde­bele and Western Cape trans­port MEC Robin Carlisle in 2010.

Toy­ota also con­firmed that it had of­fered to pro­vide the de­part­ment with en­gi­neer­ing sup­port to help it de­ter­mine whether the ve­hi­cles could be con­verted, but was never asked to do so.

Depart­ment of trans­port

In 2013, Trans­port Min­is­ter Dipuo Peters told the Public Pro­tec­tor’s of­fice that her of­fi­cials called on the con­verted ve­hi­cle own­ers to take them to panel beat­ers to en­sure they were con­verted prop­erly and would com­ply with Taxi Re­cap­i­tal­i­sa­tion Pro­gramme spec­i­fi­ca­tions. This was done de­spite the fact that Toy­ota re­fused to au­tho­rise any con­ver­sions. Last year, trans­port de­part­ment spokesper­son Sam Monareng told City Press that they did this be­cause of the large num­ber of il­le­gally con­verted ve­hi­cles on the roads.

“The de­ci­sion to make them com­pli­ant was the most prac­ti­cal op­tion as com­muters would not be stranded with­out trans­port and the ve­hi­cles would be up­graded to safer stan­dards. Oper­a­tors would have been with­out in­come and driv­ers with­out jobs,” he said. Ac­cord­ing to Madon­sela’s no­tice, a mem­o­ran­dum sent in De­cem­ber 2009 to Peters’ pre­de­ces­sor, Nde­bele, asked him to re­call all con­verted panel vans.

“It is rec­om­mended that the min­is­ter ap­prove that the de­part­ment should com­pletely pro­hibit the con­ver­sion of goods-car­ry­ing ve­hi­cles into pas­sen­ger-car­ry­ing ve­hi­cles,” reads the memo from act­ing chief di­rec­tor of road trans­port reg­u­la­tion John Mot­sats­ing.

In her no­tice, Madon­sela says there was no ev­i­dence that this was done.

But about a month later, the act­ing chief di­rec­tor re­spon­si­ble for the Taxi Re­cap­i­tal­i­sa­tion Pro­gramme, Ke­man­tha Mani­lal, rec­om­mended to Nde­bele that the con­ver­sions be ap­proved.

“Ms Mani­lal con­cluded her re­quest to the min­is­ter by stat­ing that the safety in­tegrity of the con­verted panel vans was not as poor as it was made out to be in pub­lic,” said Madon­sela in the no­tice.

In Fe­bru­ary 2010, then deputy trans­port min­is­ter Jeremy Cronin sup­ported the re­quest by Nde­bele “to of­fi­cially le­galise an il­le­gal con­duct”, Madon­sela wrote.

The reg­u­la­tor’s ac­count

The no­tice re­veals that NRCS of­fi­cials told the Public Pro­tec­tor that the or­gan­i­sa­tion did not ap­prove of il­le­gally con­verted ve­hi­cles.

Ac­cord­ing to the reg­u­la­tor’s Taxi Re­cap­i­tal­i­sa­tion Pro­gramme, there are no panel beat­ers reg­is­tered by them or by the SABS to con­vert Toy­ota panel vans into pas­sen­ger-car­ry­ing taxis. The no­tice says that be­cause of this, and be­cause Toy­ota did not ap­prove of the con­ver­sions ei­ther, the gov­ern­ment’s ap­proval of the con­verted taxis “was there­fore un­law­ful”.

De Beer’s sub­mis­sion

For more than three years, De Beer has col­lated in­for­ma­tion and ac­ci­dent re­ports in­volv­ing con­verted panel vans. He told City Press this week that he was in­creas­ingly con­cerned that the il­le­gal ve­hi­cles would be trans­port­ing thou­sands of peo­ple dur­ing the fes­tive sea­son.

“Liveli­hoods have been de­stroyed and many un­sus­pect­ing com­muters have been sent to un­timely deaths or have been mu­ti­lated in the most hor­rific ac­ci­dents caused by these struc­turally un­safe and il­le­gal Toy­ota con­ver­sions,” he said.

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