Pretoria - Motorists in and around the Pretoria CBD have lambasted the Tshwane Metro Police Department (TMPD) for "unleashing a tow truck" which constantly moves around the capital city, towing vehicles from undesignated bays, for a fee.
"Is this a new way of keeping us black people away from the city centres again? By 07h00, almost every designated parking spot in the CBD is taken. When you find an open space and park your car, the metro police mercilessly tows your car immediately. I had to pay more than R1 000 a few minutes after they took my car," said Cedric Pasi from Soshanguve, north of Pretoria.
"This towing business has become a milk cow for [Tshwane Mayor] Solly Msimanga. When he was campaigning to be mayor, he lied that the metro police officers would not be used for cash spinning. Now it is worse. Msimanga lied to everyone, now he has unleashed tow trucks to raise money for the municipality."
Hundreds of self-appointed parking attendants and car guards mill across the city, assisting motorists not only to find the parking spaces but also to manoeuvre into the spot.
Some of these empty spaces are not designated, and cars parked there are quickly whisked away by the TMPD. Parking is free on the street level across the city centre, and many vehicles are usually parked from sunrise to sunset.
Lisa Mthethwa said she got the shock of her life when she found her car missing from the spot she had parked it along Visagie Street.
"I was not blocking anyone or anything. At least a caring municipality should make sure that motorists know that their cars have been impounded by the city. I almost had a heart attack when I found that my new car had been removed," she said.
TMPD spokesperson, Senior Superintendent Isaac Mahamba on Tuesday, warned that motorists who park illegally will pay dearly.
"As TMPD we have zero tolerance on illegal parking around the CBD. Those who leave their vehicles in the middle of the road and obstruct traffic, those driving vehicles which are not light duty vehicles, and those motorists who park at loading zones, those who park at the entrances of buildings, those who park at the bus loading bays will have their cars impounded and pay the amount of R1590 with the additional R64 per day for storage fees if you did not release your car on the same day," Mahamba told African News Agency (ANA).
"This also applies to South African Police Service [SAPS], South African National Defence Force and the metro police's members. No one is above the law. Their cars will be impounded as well, for that fee. We again advise members of the public not to be misled by car guards to park anywhere. Motorists must obey the law by parking legally."
Mahamba said if a motorist finds that their vehicle is missing after they parked in and around Pretoria, the first thing is to call and check with TMPD before reporting it to the SAPS.
"If maybe you parked your vehicle and when you come back you don't find it, you may call TMPD to inquire first before you report it at police station as missing," said Mahamba.
He refuted claims that the Tshwane Metro was on a moneymaking drive by towing the cars to it's pound.
"We are not on any money making campaign. Rather, we make sure that there's law and order according to the Road Traffic Act 93 of 1996, and free flow of traffic in the CBD," he emphasised.
The opposition in Tshwane, the African National Congress (ANC) weighed in on the matter, saying there has been a surge of motorists complaining about their cars being impounded in the CBD.
"The ANC is gravely concerned about the intimidation and harassment of motorists by Tshwane Metro Police in and around the inner-city. In the recent past there has been a surge in complains of motorists about vehicles getting capriciously impounded mostly under dubious circumstances. This is nothing more than money making scheme which must be stopped at once," ANC Greater Tshwane spokesperson Tebogo Joala said.
"We call on the City to treat our people with respect and apply traffic laws and municipality by-laws with impartiality."