Killer taxis took to the roads in 2005 – and the fight to remove them is still raging

Toyota Quantum panel vans in use as taxis at a taxi rank in Cape Town.

Toyota Quantum panel vans in use as taxis at a taxi rank in Cape Town.

Eleven years after the first red flag signalled that Toyota Quantum panel vans were illegally converted into passenger taxis, the public protector is holding hearings on how regulators and banks have failed to ensure that thousands of the vehicles were taken off the roads.

2005: Toyota South Africa warns the South African Bureau of Standards, the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications and the department of transport that it has not, and will not, issue letters of approval for the conversion of panel vans into Toyota Quantum Ses’fikile or other passenger-carrying variants.

2008: Former banker Hennie de Beer reports the alleged illegal conversions to the Western Cape department of community safety and transport.

2009: The Western Cape legislature establishes a committee and holds hearings into the illegality of these converted taxis and called on the major banks, department of transport and regulators to testify.

2009: A taxi owner driving to Durban in one of the converted taxis loses control of it and the vehicle rolls. Three people die and nine are severely injured.

2010: The hearings are concluded, finding that the taxis are illegally converted; the report is tabled and accepted by the committee. Nothing comes from its recommendations.

2011: Representatives of the presidency, the public protector’s office, the department of transport, the police and the treasury meet to discuss the issue but no steps are taken.

2011: A 21-year-old from Oudtshoorn dies in one of the converted panel vans and an 11-year-old survives the crash but is badly burned.

2011: The department of transport conducts its own tests on the illegally converted taxis – without the permission or participation of the manufacturer, Toyota SA – deeming them roadworthy.

2012: The public protector begins a systematic investigation into the regulatory discrepancies concerning the illegal conversion of the taxis.

2013: More illegally converted panel vans are sold.

2015: Toyota Japan denies any knowledge of these conversions.

2016: The public protector subpoenas the National Taxi Association, the South African Bureau of Standards, the Road Accident Fund, the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications, Absa, FNB, Standard Bank and Nedbank to provide information about their role in allowing the killer taxis to be on the road.

Athandiwe Saba

Athandiwe Saba

Athandiwe Saba is a multi award-winning journalist who is passionate about data, human interest issues, governance and everything that isn’t on social media. She is an author, an avid reader and trying to find the answer to the perfect balance between investigative journalism, online audiences and the decline in newspaper sales. It’s a rough world and a rewarding profession. Read more from Athandiwe Saba

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