NEW KID: A tuk-tuk taxi in Rosebank, Johannesburg. Picture: MARTIN RHODES
NEW KID: A tuk-tuk taxi in Rosebank, Johannesburg. Picture: MARTIN RHODES

GAUTENG roads and transport MEC Ismail Vadi has warned companies offering cheap tuk-tuk taxi services that they pose "unhealthy competition" to minibus taxis, metered taxis and buses.

Several operators of tuk-tuk taxis have launched their services in Johannesburg recently and plan to expand as demand for their R5/km rides soars.

In a letter to Business Day on Wednesday, Mr Vadi said tuk-tuk services were a feasible and cost-effective mode of public transport. They contributed to job creation and commuter mobility.

But he warned that the Gauteng Provincial Regulatory Authority had to ensure that tuk-tuk routes did not encroach on the "legal routes" of other public transport operators such as minibus taxis, metered taxis and buses, to avoid "unhealthy competition and conflict".

"The routes on which tuk-tuks travel must be in line with the transport plans of city authorities. Tuk-tuk services must have precise points of origin and destination, including adequate parking facilities," Mr Vadi said.

Free Market Foundation executive director Leon Louw on Wednesday castigated Mr Vadi for his "ignorance" of the law. "There are no legally prescribed routes. It’s a complete myth."

He said tuk-tuk services were "convenient, flexible and mobile" and the idea of assigning routes to them "is to completely misunderstand the concept".

Mr Louw said the only public transport subjected to formal routes were buses. The "de facto" routes demarcated between rival minibus taxi associations — "a fully fledged illegal mafia" — had absolutely no grounding in law. "Mr Vadi’s remarks show ignorance of the law and the presumption that criminal activity is the law."

Mr Louw said there was no such thing as "unhealthy" competition. "They’re weasel words. It is only something unsuccessful competitors complain about," he said.

City of Johannesburg executive director for transport Lisa Seftel said on Wednesday the city welcomed the tuk-tuks, but agreed they need to be regulated to protect passengers.

"There may be consequences for other taxi operators in the longer term," Ms Seftel said.