Ndebele vows to stamp out illegal 'taxis

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Pretoria - Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele has vowed to stamp out the reported illegal conversions of panel vans into mini-bus taxis.

Several media reports suggested this week that more than 4 000 such vans had been illegally converted into mini-bus taxis and were a danger to commuters.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Minister Ndebele said an investigation by his department had already revealed that close to 1 100 panel vans had been illegally converted and were operating illegally as taxis, ferrying commuters around the country. 

The converted vans were being operated in contravention of the National Land Transport Transition Act and lacked the necessary safety features found in normal mini-bus taxis. 

"Our task is to ensure the safety of commuters so the major reason why we want to root out these vehicles is due to their lack of safety features," Mr Ndebele said.

He conceded that the vehicles found were not impounded but that the department was seriously considering withdrawing operating licenses and recalling the vehicles.

The vans were being purchased at lower prices than the normal min-bus taxi and operators would then use illegal dealers to convert them. 

The probe looked at the validity of claims that the illegally converted vehicles entered the system through the Licensing Board, the number of illegally converted taxis and the source of finance. 

Mr Ndebele said only the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications could list compliant vehicle manufacturers, importers and builders. 

He blamed unscrupulous dealers for the problems, vowing an investigation will continue to get to the root of the problem. 

"Safety is a key priority of the taxi recapitalisation programme and we will intensify our efforts on illegal public transport operators and operations," Mr Ndebele said. 

He said the matter was now in the hands of municipalities and road traffic authorities and immediate action would be taken against the culprits.

The South African National Taxi Council (SANTACO) has also launched a hotline number were the illegal operators could be reported. The public can contact (012) 321-1470/5046.

"As the taxi industry we cannot allow such vehicles to be on the roads," said SANTACO spokesperson Phillip Taaibosch. 

He said there was no proof that any fraud was committed during the transactions. "The operators bought the taxis legally, the transactions were legal and we have to investigate whether there was any ignorance to the law and the systems," Mr Taaibosch added.