Cars gather dust at the Sandton Gautrain station. Pictures: Japhet Ncube and Nhlanhla Phillips / African News Agency.
Cars gather dust at the Sandton Gautrain station. Pictures: Japhet Ncube and Nhlanhla Phillips / African News Agency.

Johannesburg - Dozens of cars left abandoned for years are gathering dust in airport and Gautrain parking bays, racking up millions in unpaid tickets.

One of the worst cases is an unidentified car that has been sitting in a parking bay at OR Tambo International Airport for 15 years; who the owner is, remains a mystery.

The airport management said its owner now owes R219 000 in unpaid parking fees.

The car is one of 75 abandoned vehicles in the airport and Gautrain’s parking lot, with ticket bills that exceed some of their values. Some of the vehicles, police said, were stolen and dumped in the parking bays. In other cases, it is suspected that the owners emigrated and just left them there.

A Jeep Cherokee registered to the Audi Centre East Rand dealership is one of several abandoned vehicles at the Sandton Gautrain station. The dealership, however, denied that it owned the vehicle.

The dealer principal, Pieter de Wet, said the Jeep had been sold to a customer about 16 years ago, but the ownership had not been transferred.

The car has been parked at the station for about four years.

“I’m talking about a long time ago probably 2002 or 2003. It’s not up to me to trace the owner, the car is parked at the (station), so they must trace him. We gave them all the details,” De Wet said. He refused to share the customer’s details.

A security guard at the station said there were about seven other vehicles that had been abandoned in the parking lot.

“One car has been here since 2013. People leave cars here and go away. You find that some are now living overseas,” he said.

A BMW Z4 Coupe is also gathering dust there. The Star traced the car to Boitumelong Holdings. Among the company’s subsidiaries was Otto Waste Systems, which provides bulk bins across the country.

Joburg-based Boitumelong Holdings is owned by father and son John and Tumelo Sithole. Sithole senior on Monday said the car was last driven by his son.

“My son used to drive it, but that was long ago,” he said. Asked if he knew what happened to it, he said: “You would have to ask him (Tumelo), I don’t know. It’s his car.” Repeated calls to 34-year-old Tumelo went unanswered.

Reports indicate that the vehicle was registered to Boitumelong Holdings on October 17, 2013. The licence disc appears to have expired on November 30, 2015.

A Fiat Palio parked at the Gautrain station in Sandton and registered in the name of a Robert Barry Perfect, 69, has also been abandoned. His cellphone was on voicemail and a person who answered the landline at the registration address had no knowledge of him.

Gautrain spokesperson Kesagee Nayager confirmed that there were cars abandoned at nine stations, but insisted that there were only a few.

Nayager said the entity does not remove abandoned vehicles from its premises without following due process.

“We first attempt to establish contact with the owner or the family of the owner, in the event that the owner has passed away so that we can find a mutually amicable solution,” Nayager said.

Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) spokesperson Leigh Gunkel-Keuler said they knew of a case of a vehicle that had been left at the airport’s premises more than 15 years ago.

“It’s a very old make and model with foreign ownership,” Gunkel- Keuler said.

Hundreds of thousands owed

Asked how much it cost to park in the airport overnight, she said the price depended on where the owner had parked it. Parking rates varied from R45 to R260 per day, she said.

The unidentified vehicle's owner owed the airport R219 000 in outstanding parking fees. The figure was based on the cheapest rate of R45 per day.

“Other vehicles that have been left for longer than seven years have parking bills of about R125 000 at a rate of R50 per day,” she added.

OR Tambo International Airport, she said, was unable to dispose of the vehicles as it did not have ownership rights or hold any documentation on the vehicles.

“Airport management is currently considering legal options in this regard,” she said. “We engage with the police and also try to contact the owners through other law-enforcement agencies.”

Joburg metro police department spokesperson Wayne Minnaar said police only intervened when a vehicle was left on a public road by the owner.

“When a vehicle is taken from private property onto a public road, then the JMPD will issue a notice for it to be removed within seven days.

“If it’s not removed in those seven days, it becomes state property,” he said.

Police spokesperson Katlego Mohale said police always checked if abandoned vehicles had been reported stolen. “We tow the vehicle to the pound. If a person comes forward, they have to explain and pay a fine.”

The Star