Public protector asks for help in investigating illegal minibus conversions
Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has asked the minibus taxi industry for information to help her investigate how panel vans were illegally converted into minibus taxis for public transport.
Her office said on Wednesday she called on taxi operators who "knowingly or inadvertently acquired Toyota Quantum panel vans that have allegedly been converted illegally into minibus taxis to approach her office".
"It has come to (her) attention that unscrupulous businesses sell such vehicles to taxi operators in hard cash‚ as opposed to credit‚ to evade the stringent measures that are able to detect and thwart this fraudulent practice.
"We call on all the affected taxi operators who bought such illegally converted vehicles from 2005 to date to approach the public protector’s offices in the provinces and at head office."
The call applied to vehicles bought as new or used and those acquired at auctions.
The investigation was launched in 2012 after a complaint that vehicles were allegedly modified by manufacturers‚ importers and builders (MIBs)‚ and converted into minibus taxis although not safe for that.
It was alleged these vehicles did not meet government safety regulations‚ national standards and specifications and so did not operate legally as taxis.
These taxis allegedly contributed to motor vehicle accidents as they were structurally unsafe and unstable.
In the past‚ the Department of Transport admitted registering more than 2‚000 dangerous "pseudo-Quantums" for use on roads‚ despite warnings from the manufacturer that they were unsafe.
That admission was made at a hearing conducted by former public protector Thuli Madonsela on the conversion of panel vans into minibus taxis.
Complainant Hennie de Beer said the conversions were unsafe as the chassis and floor of the vehicles were weak because they were built to carry goods and not people.
The inquiry also heard that private companies‚ with links to car dealerships‚ were responsible for the conversions.
Taxi owners‚ who were sold the panel vans during the government’s taxi recapitalisation drive‚ thought they were buying safe new Quantum Ses’ fikile models. Instead‚ the inquiry heard‚ they were sold vehicles made by Toyota to transport goods.
Toyota issued a warning in 2009 to the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications to ensure the vehicles were tested to ascertain they met safety standards.