By Dumi Xaba
My neighbour was recently involved in a car accident. As standard procedure, he called the Joburg Metro Police Department (JMPD). He also called me for assistance to remove his vehicle. He was not insured. Before both the ambulance and the police arrived at the scene, hordes of tow trucks were already there.

Some openly carry big fire power. Quite odd since they are not in the security industry. The police and I arrived at the same time.

My neighbour was intimidated from removing his vehicle since there was no serious injuries.

I tried to intervene but was told it was not a break down and I could not tow his car. Since it was an accident scene, only designated vehicles were allowed to tow him away, they insisted.

He was rudely instructed to remove his vehicle as it was obstructing the free flow of traffic. He was also pressured by tow truck operators.

Eventually, my neighbour agreed on a price of R3,950 justified as legit by traffic officers at the scene. He was made to sign some document.

The vehicle was never towed to his house. He tried for five days to locate it with no luck. The car was located in Springs, Ekurhuleni, east of Joburg.

He was given a breakdown of charges that included R2,500 initial recovery fee, R3,950 towing fee, R10 per kilometre to his house and R550 a day storage fee.

He tried to open a case but was told he signed documents and that made it a private legal matter. The car was sold by the towing company and he still owes a balance of R2,000.

My research revealed that the prices were actually a going legal rate. Most tow truck companies are registered and legitimate businesses and run as an honest business, but they are also bullied by the Towing Mafia.

Government has tried on several occasions to remedy the situation without success. This included changing the legislation and subjecting operators to a security clearance.

This hasn’t helped. Both the SAPS and the JMPD have confirmed that cases are on the rise and most cannot be resolved by the state. The police could not provide statistics of vehicles that have disappeared without a trace after being towed from accident scenes.

As from 2018 the SANS Act 93 was amended. Some of the amendments included the fact that a tow truck operator must carry an operating card at all times with his name well printed, his address, telephone numbers and an operating license number.

Several sting operations have been conducted to arrest those who are illegally using the state’s radio frequency but most are tipped off internally by their police friends not to rush to sting operations “fake accidents points”.

Due to the high level of unemployment most motorists are uninsured. Hence they have no access to free towing services.

The following tips might help:
Never allow yourself to be intimidated to sign any documents, if you are not incapacitated. You have a full legal right to safeguard your vehicle. The Road Traffic Act of 1993 Section 63(1) gives the motorist the full right over his vehicle unless instructed by the police to do so.
AA is the most reputable towing scheme in South Africa. It costs less than R150 a month for peace of mind.
Check if your tow truck belongs to one of the two major bodies that comply with the industry code of conduct – which is the United Towing association of South Africa or the South African Towing and Recovery Association.
If you are driving a financed car, familiarised yourself with towing and accident regulations of the banking institution since most of the banks offer it as part of their packages.
If it’s a new car, read the towing and recovery rules and familiarised yourself with them, including all important numbers.
Never sign a towing contract without first stipulating all amounts payable in writing. Read the fine print as most hidden costs are in there.

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