The affordable education loan option
Cape Town - Tuk-tuks offering free rides along the Atlantic Seaboard and in the city centre are operating illegally, says the City of Cape Town.
“They are providing a courtesy service and if the vehicle fleet exceeds two vehicles they need an operating licence for each vehicle,” said Brett Herron, mayoral committee member for Transport Cape Town.
He said traffic services had been told to be on the look-out for unauthorised vehicles.
To date, only one operating licence for one tuk-tuk had been issued in Cape Town, to Guerilla-IMC, the company affiliated with Monarch Tuksi.
However, there had been recent reports of tuk-tuks operating on various routes throughout the city.
Heather Tager, of the Sea Point Community Police Forum, said she had seen them operating from the Adelphi Centre. When she enquired about how much it would cost to ride on one, she was told it was a free service.
Tuk-tuks have also been spotted in Camps Bay, where they have reportedly been rented to tourists for the day if they have a valid scooter licence.
The Monarch Tuksi Company, which owns 20 three-wheelers, circumvented the licence issue by offering passengers “shares” in the company so it would not be deemed as public transport.
Owner Daniel Clarence said the vehicles were “out and about” but only for marketing purposes. “Each vehicle is given a set route of 3km back and forth - six in total - which they drive along daily. If they are approached by a member of the public who wants a ride, they will oblige free of charge provided the individual is travelling along those routes.”
Someone wanting to go elsewhere would have to wait for one of the licensed tuk-tuks, he said.
He said a courtesy service was provided by or on behalf of an organisation such as a hotel, which was not an operator. He had two vehicles stationed at guesthouses for this purpose.
He confirmed that only one of the company’s vehicles was licensed. “The rest of our fleet are purely mobile advertising boards.”
However, Herron said advertising for gain was considered the same as transporting a passenger for gain, and the company would still need operating licences for these vehicles.
Clarence said: “I will put it on record that if this is an issue with the city, I will immediately prevent the vehicles from carrying passengers, bar the one licensed and two at the guesthouses.”
Beverley Schafer, ward councillor for the Atlantic Seaboard, said: “We welcome the innovation and idea to provide a service to tourists and locals, but it’s not legal at the moment. What happens if something goes wrong?”
The National Land Transport Act defines a tuk-tuk as a three-wheeled motor vehicle device that can carry up to three passengers, including the driver. Companies that offer any form of public transport must apply to a provincial regulatory entity for a licence. This licence will only be granted if there is provision in the local authority’s transport plan for the mode of transport.
The city’s current transport plan did not make provision for a tuk-tuk service. In response to a growing interest in this form of transport, the city proposed some amendments to its transport plan in April.
These included the following conditions and guidelines for their operation: to serve as a short-distance mode of transport over a distance of not more than 3km; to remain within the following areas: Waterfront/Sea Point/Bantry Bay, the CBD if not in conflict with sedan taxis, Kalk Bay and Fish Hoek/Simon’s Town; a specified start and end point of its route; children younger than 13 to be accompanied by an adult; all trips to be prebooked with the operator and for the base facilities to be privately owned or leased by the tuk-tuk operator.
However, Herron said these amendments had not been finalised as the Transport and Public Works MEC Robin Carlisle had queries about the conditions.
The transport plan, known as the Comprehensive Integrated Transport Plan, was also still out for public comment.
“At a recent meeting with the MEC we discussed the tuk-tuks and agreed on the way forward. I expect the amendments we approved will take effect soon.”
He said this would be finalised before the start of the peak tourism season.
Herron said that until these were approved, the operation of tuk-tuks in the city, barring the one vehicle that already had a licence, was illegal.
“While we think they provide a great service, they should wait for the permits to be issued,” said Schafer.
After the tuk-tuks made their first appearance in the city last year, there were about 80 applications for licences to operate similar vehicles. The province only issued one licence, and without the city’s support.
Paul Browning, an independent transport analyst, said tuk-tuks running as a small operation were quite successful.
They were ideally meant to provide a last-mile service, especially from transport interchanges. But if the number of vehicles increased, there could be pressure on firms to deviate from their routes in a bid to secure more customers. This could possibly lead to turf wars with taxis.
Quick, cheap and efficient travel
The Cape Argus arranged a trip on a Monarch “Tuksi” with a single phone call.
Half an hour later driver Tony de Wet met us in upper Long Street and said he was flexible in terms of where we wanted to go.
He said tourists could rent the tuk-tuk and drive it themselves if they had a motorcycle licence, but requesting a driver didn’t cost extra.
To the sounds of Bob Marley’s greatest hits, De Wet, 59, drove us over Kloofnek, through Camps Bay, via Bantry Bay and Sea Point Promenade and back to Long Street. He stopped along the way, pointing out the sites and casually chatting about them.
“I’m from Cape Town and now I can honestly say I have the best job in the city! With the breeze through my hair, I get to meet people from different walks of life. It’s also a beautiful city and I get to listen to good music all day,” he said.
“We have had some problems with the city and licensing. But the owner is meeting with them and hopefully by the festive season we’ll have our entire fleet out and taking tourists around.”
Although the tuk-tuk could “easily” be pushed to 80km/h, De Wet said most tourists preferred to go at a more relaxed speed - “to take photos and so on”.
The drive did not feel unsafe, and the passenger seat at the back is fitted with two seat belts.
De Wet said the vehicles were light on fuel and offered commuters a cheaper option than a taxi.
He acknowledged that only one of the tuk-tuks (out of a fleet of 20) could legally take passengers. “The other ones you see are only used for advertising and promotions.”
Monarch’s tuk-tuks are imported from India, where they are the preferred means of public transport in many cities.
History of the tuk-tuk
The tuk-tuk, invented in Japan, is popular throughout Asia and India.
Also known as an auto rickshaw, these vehicles offer a cheaper alternative to driving short distances, especially in cities with heavy traffic congestion.
These three-wheelers can be seen in several African countries, such as Kenya, Egypt and Mozambique.
They are popular with tourists and passengers wanting to nip somewhere without having to walk.
Gauteng has a few tuk-tuk operators and there are plans to start a service in Tshwane.
Companies in Gauteng must also apply to the Provincial Regulatory Entity for an operating licence.