A sign at OR Tambo airport.
CARS left abandoned for years are gathering dust at airports and Gautrain parking bays, racking up millions of rand in unpaid tickets.

One of the worst cases is an unidentified vehicle left at OR Tambo International Airport parking bay 15 years ago and whose owner remains a mystery. Airport management said the vehicle had racked up parking fees of R219000.

The vehicle is one of 75 abandoned cars in the airport’s parking lot owing vast ticket bills that exceed some of their values. Some vehicles, police said, were stolen and dumped at the parking bays, while with others, suspicion is rife that migrating owners simply left them there.

A Jeep Cherokee, registered in the name of Audi Centre East Rand dealership, is one of several cars forsaken at the Sandton Gautrain station. The dealership last week, however, denied it owned the vehicle.

Dealership principal Pieter de Wet said the Jeep had been sold to a customer about 16 years ago, but ownership had strangely not been transferred. The car has been abandoned 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 him, the car is parked at the (station) so they must trace him. We gave them all the details,” De Wet said.

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

“One car has been here since 2013. People leave cars here and go away. Some you find have moved overseas,” he said.

A swanky BMW Z4 sports car is another vehicle in the parking lot gathering dust. The car is listed as being registered 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 said yesterday 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 had happened to it, he said: “You would have to ask him (Tumelo), I don’t know. It’s his car.” Repeated efforts to get comment from 34-year-old Tumelo were unsuccessful as he did not answer his cellphone.

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

A Fiat Palio long parked at the Sandton Gautrain station, registered in the name of a Robert Barry Perfect, is another of the abandoned cars. Efforts to get comment from him were unsuccessful as his cellphone went to voicemail and a person who answered the landline at the registration address had no knowledge of him.

Gautrain spokesperson Kesagee Nayager said there was a problem of abandoned cars at its nine stations, but insisted that the number was “very small”.

She said the entity did not remove abandoned vehicles without following due process.

Airports Company South Africa spokesperson Leigh Gunkel-Keuler said they knew of a case of a vehicle left at its premises over 15 years ago. “It’s a very old make and model with foreign ownership,” she said.

Asked how much it cost to park at the airport overnight, she said it depended on the area the passenger had used. Parking rates at OR Tambo varied from R45 to R260 per day.

She said the unidentified vehicle’s parking fee stood at R219 000.

Police spokesperson Katlego Mohale said abandoned vehicles were checked if they were stolen.

“If a person comes forward, they have to explain, pay a fine and the money they owe,” she said.