Johannesburg - South Africa has a new problem in the form of tiny cars called Bajaj Qute, which over the past few months have been mushrooming in different parts of Gauteng.
Almost every day, they are seen flipping over while carrying passengers due to harsh weather conditions or being attacked by taxi operators.
This week, one of the cars was badly damaged by three taxi association personnel in Randburg, north of Johannesburg. The incident was captured on video, which is currently making the rounds on social media.
The assailants were seen totally destroying it, unaware of their surroundings or taking notice that they were being recorded, before entering a tactical patrol vehicle clearly marked with the name of the association and driving off.
At this point, it was unclear whether the incident was reported to police.
JMPD spokesperson Xolani Fihla told The Star that the department was not aware of the incident.
Gauteng Traffic Police spokesperson Sello Maremane said the department had not authorised the use of the vehicles for carrying passengers on South African roads.
“That is why even today (yesterday), their vehicles are kept at our premises in Benoni. These vehicles are not safe to ferry passengers.
“They belong to different people. There is actually a court case pending between my department and the Bajaj operators,” said Maremane.
He said he was getting calls about taxi operators colliding with people off the road.
Two weeks ago, the Gauteng Traffic Police Public Transport Intervention Unit impounded 29 vehicles for illegally undertaking public transportation without valid operating licences.
A number of drivers abandoned them and fled the scene.
The majority of these vehicles were seen in the Joburg CBD, Braamfontein, Westbury, Noordgesig, Sandton and Randburg areas.
“The Gauteng Traffic Police call on the owners to refrain from using these vehicles as public transport without valid operating licences. This kind of practice may also lead to taxi conflicts, which often result in the loss of lives,” said Maremane.
Ministry of Transport spokesperson Collen Msibi said the importing of vehicles was overseen by the Department of Trade and Industry. Any importer would need to follow the process to get the necessary approvals.
Msibi said the SA Bureau of Standards and National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications, as regulatory bodies, were responsible for the homologation process and certification.
Two weeks ago, when some of the vehicles were impounded, Bolt’s regional manager for East and Southern Africa, Takura Malaba, said that the action was unexpected and that the drivers had not been presented with an official reason for the action.
Meanwhile, Bolt has condemned the intimidation of its Bajaj Qute drivers after a video went viral showing the vehicle being smashed by three men associated with the minibus-taxi industry.
The SA Taxi Council’s Gauteng secretary, Graham Fritz, could not be reached for comment on his phone yesterday.
Malaba said the company was still trying to open a case with the police, and were “committed to working with all stakeholders in the transport industry to find a way for all parties to work alongside each other”.
“We believe that all South Africans should have access to effective and safe transport,” said Malaba.
He said Bolt was engaging with relevant authorities regarding community safety. “Crime against ride-hailing drivers continues to be a national issue of great concern, and the safety of drivers who use the Bolt platform is of utmost importance to us.” | Additional reporting by Sihle Mlambo