The inside of a taxi impounded in Rosettenville. The floor has been reconstructed and most of the electronics exposed with additional wires to the ignition, which is activated by a separate button. Picture: Anna Cox
Johannesburg - Death-trap taxis are transporting children and other passengers on a daily basis in the city.

More than 100 unroadworthy minibus taxis have been impounded by the Johannesburg Metro Police Department since 1 March, including 26 in a blitz in Rosettenville on Tuesday.

Some of the taxis were in such bad condition that parts of the steering columns and dashboards were held together with hand-connected wires. One taxi was using two screwdrivers, side by side, to change gears.

The steering column and makeshift gear lever made from screwdrivers. Welding spots on the steering column usually weaken the mechanism. Picture: Anna Cox

“They are death traps," said JMPD spokesman Chief Superintendent Wayne Minnaar. "Some were in such a bad condition that they were sent directly to the pound rather than to the Langlaagte testing station for roadworthy checking."

He said some were “literally falling apart and were accidents waiting to happen". Many had expired licence discs and false number plates, so it would take a while to track down the owners.

“We are very concerned because one of the vehicles had just transported children to school," Minnaar said. "We appeal to parents making use of this mode of transport to ensure the taxis their children are in are fully roadworthy. It is their responsibility.”

Blame game

No arrests were made as the drivers were blaming the owners for the bad condition of the vehicles.

Some 11 stolen taxis were also identified in the blitz.

Minnaar said the JMPD was conducting six-week campaigns in hotspot areas across the city where taxis were known to constantly break the law by driving on the wrong side of the road, using incorrect turning lanes and driving on the shoulder of the road.

Off the road

The blitzes would continue until “drivers learn to behave” and would mean that those found in unroadworthy vehicles and breaking traffic laws would be taken off the roads "for at least a day".

“We stop about 25 taxis at a time," he added, "and only when we have this number will we take them to the vehicle testing station in Langlaagte, where a full check is done on the vehicle. Fines for every single infringement will be issued, which can take hours, even the whole day.”

The owners would have to pay all outstanding licence fees and traffic fines, as well as having to pay a pound fee of R2850. The 11 stolen taxis were taken to a police station.

The Star