Cape Town - 130203 - A new company, The Monarch Tuksi Copmpany, has started operating around Cape Town. The company insists that it is not a public transport provider but a private transport company. By paying R40 for the trip and receiving a share in the company, the commuter is using a vehicle they part own. This is to get around the fact the company has not been able to get the licenses it needs from the city. PHOTOGRAPH: DAVID RITCHIE

Cape Town - A system of public transport in the City Bowl and Atlantic seaboard using tuk-tuks is most likely illegal, say both the City of Cape Town and the province.

Monarch Tuksi applied for 10 licences to operate the service last year, but received only one. However, the company is operating 20 of the vehicles for a flat fare - the owners do not call it that - of R40 a journey.

The owners of the Monarch Tuksi Company, brothers James and Daniel Clarence, insist it is not a form of public transport.

Only a few cities in the world have transport plans that license tuk-tuks and integrate them into the public transport networks, and Cape Town is not one of them.

James and Daniel Clarence decided to start a tuk-tuk service in Cape Town after a visit to Thailand in 2008. They applied to the city for 10 licences, but only one was granted.

James said: “The other nine, although unopposed, have still not been received. Our operating model is currently being discussed with the City of Cape Town.”

Brett Herron, the city’s mayoral committee member for transport, said Cape Town’s transport policy framework did not allow for the licensing of tuk-tuks. And in any case, operating licences were a provincial function.

“The city does not grant operating licences. Operating licences are granted by the Provincial Regulating Entity. We provided comment to (the entity) on the Clarence applications, and our recommendation was that the licences be refused since our current Integrated Transport Plan does not make provision for a tuk-tuk service.”

To get around the licence issue, the brothers have devised a share scheme for commuters.

“Our operating model is a share scheme where passengers, via a transaction with our company, become shareholders in our business. As a shareholder - by definition a business owner - the Monarch provides a private chauffeured experience. Shares are R40,” said Daniel.

However, according to the provincial Department of Transport and Public Works, Monarch Tuksi cannot use their shareholder system to bypass the law.

“Monarch Tuksi do not identify themselves as a public transport service provider and therefore are of the opinion that they need not be in the possession of an operating licence,” said Siphesihle Dube, spokesman for the department.

However, they were clearly providing a transport service in return for a fare or other reward, in terms of the National Land Transport Act.

“We are satisfied that they may, in fact, be in contravention of the law.

“We have informed them of our position,” said Dube, who added they were exploring legal action.

Monarch is listed as a private company and has been running tuk-tuks in Cape Town since the end of last year.

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Cape Argus