We hear it all the time, especially during the festive season. Many of South Africa’s taxis are death traps.
As City Press reports today, there are about 4?000 taxis on our roads that are more dangerous than most. That’s because they started their lives as panel vans and were illegally converted into passenger vehicles.
The fact that panel vans get converted into taxis illustrates a callous disregard for life.
Original Quantum passenger taxis cost tens of thousands of rands less than converted panel vans, but taxi owners buy the latter because of their extra seating capacity – it’s possible to fit up to three extra seats in them.
These seats do not rest on steel support beams designed to carry the weight of passengers, but on the floor of panel vans designed to transport nothing heavier than boxes of goods.
The three extra seats fitted into these vehicles can translate into an extra R7?500 a month for the taxi owner.
And, as an accident report attached to a case of culpable homicide in a Port Elizabeth court reveals, the passengers – and the driver – can be exposed to carbon monoxide poisoning from exhaust fumes leaking into the cabin.
We spoke to the mother of 16-year-old Franklin Weiers who, when he was 10, lay burning under one of these converted vehicles.
Last October, a baby died in an accident involving one of these vehicles.
In two weeks’ time, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela will release a report after her office’s three-year investigation into converted panel vans.
We don’t know what she will recommend, but we hope her findings will be taken more seriously than those contained in her Nkandla report.
Dear City Press readers, wherever you are going this festive season, please travel safely.
And don’t get to your destination by travelling in a converted taxi.