Cop cars used as taxis?

2008-10-07 00:00

City residents who spotted Msunduzi Municipality traffic vehicles doubling up as taxis could not believe their eyes, so they took photographs as evidence.

The Witness learnt of at least three different NPC vehicles being driven around the city prominently displaying yellow taxi signs.

At least one of them was spotted on Sunday picking up two people from outside the Nedbank Plaza in Alan Paton Avenue.

The woman who saw this tried to alert the municipality on Monday to get it to investigate the alleged abuse of council property.

She said she was rudely dismissed because she did not want to give her name.

“I was told ‘We cannot help you if we don’t have your name’. It wasn’t about helping me, but helping to ensure that the city’s vehicles are not abused,” she said.

The woman photographed the “illegal taxi” — with number plate NPC 3168 — with her cellphone .

The Witness was also sent a photograph of NPC 3260, a grey Toyota Corolla, late last week and yesterday received an e-mail showing a car bearing NPC 3228 plates.

Opposition parties in the municipality voiced their outrage at the alleged abuse of council property. The DA’s Mark Steele said the problem has been going on for some time. He said councillors of all the political parties have raised the issue with the municipal manager and officials.

Steele said each time they do so they are told to bring proof such as the number plates of the vehicles allegedly doubling as taxis.

“Councillors were told that without proof there could be no investigation. This has been an ongoing scandal, and hopefully now with the assistance of the public, something will finally be done to put an end to this matter,” he said.

Dolo Zondi of the IFP believes municipal staff generally abuse council vehicles. He has laid many complaints, but says they have fallen on deaf ears.

Zondi claimed that staff are ferrying their girlfriends around town during working hours, while others conduct the work of the ruling party using municipal vehicles.

“We have highlighted this in the Executive Committee (Exco) meetings, but nothing has been done. There’s no supervision of these vehicles,” he said.

Municipal senior management vowed to get to the bottom of the matter. Municipal manager Rob Haswell said it is completely wrong for taxi signs to be displayed on municipal vehicles.

“Clearly we will have to investigate the matter thoroughly. I appeal to the public to contact us directly so we can set traps and find conclusive evidence that this is indeed happening,” added Haswell.

Acting manager for Public Safety Kenneth Chetty said he is not aware of the problem.

Chetty said the traffic officers could have displayed the taxi signs for their amusement after confiscating them from illegally operating metered taxis.

He said he doubts traffic officers would take part in such acts with clearly marked municipal vehicles and risk getting caught. He said he will investigate the matter thoroughly.

Also not amused are registered taxi owners, who say pirate taxis are becoming a huge problem in the city. They said private cars park in Langalibalele Street are displaying yellow taxi signs. This is illegal if you do not have the necessary taxi permits displayed on your windscreen. Pirate taxi drivers can be charged, fined and even have their cars confiscated.

Legal experts said that even if the traffic officers are displaying the signs as a joke, they should know better. It is illegal for them to display taxi signs as they do not have the necessary permits.

According to the experts, the municipality does not have to wait for proof that these vehicles actually picked up passengers. Displaying a taxi sign is also illegal.

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