A lack of responsive policy and what appears to be a regulatory slip-up at the City of Cape Town has spawned an unusual tuk-tuk service — the Monarch Tuksi Company — which insists that it is not a public transport provider but a private transport company.
Tuk-tuks are set to create a headache for municipalities across the country as few cities have transport plans that allow for the vehicles to be licensed and integrated into public transport networks.
The fleet of 20 tuk-tuks has been operating in Cape Town since the end of last year. The story behind Monarch, which gets users to become shareholders, is one of necessity being the mother of invention. By paying R40 for the trip and receiving a share in the company, the commuter is using a vehicle they part own. This is to get around the fact the company has not been able to get the licences it needs from the city.
Each month a reconciliation is done on the shareholders and all users are sent an official shareholder registration document to fill in and send back to Monarch. The company has 400,000 shares for issue to passengers. They are Class B shares, which have limited rights.
Two years ago, brothers James and Daniel Clarence had an idea to start a tuk-tuk service in Cape Town. The idea was to operate a charter service. "All our stuff would be prebooked, no meters, and that is the licence we applied for … more out of interest, and they granted us one licence, even though we applied for eight," Daniel Clarence said on Thursday.
"We said there has been a mistake, we applied for eight … (the city) confirmed our application; said sorry, it was a stuff-up on their side — so we wanted to know how do we get the others?"
"They apologised (and said) we had to go through the regulatory processes, and the applications had to go into the government gazette. We would have to resubmit the applications … and if there are no objections, then afterwards we would have our licences," he said.
"We resubmitted and there were no objections, that was in March last year. They told us everything was fine and: ‘ You will get your licences ’. Me and my brother resigned from our jobs. Then in May they told us they no longer want to grant the licences," he said.
According to the city’s mayoral committee member for transport, Brett Herron, Cape Town does not have any policy framework that allows for the licensing of tuk-tuks. He said he was not sure why one licence had been issued to Monarch, as the city had not approved any applications from more than 80 companies wanting to start tuk-tuk services in the city.
"I have been told the province may have issued that licence in error," Mr Herron said. The city was in the process of drafting an integrated transport plan that would be presented for public comment next month. The new plan would make provision for tuk-tuks, he said. Until it is adopted, the tuk-tuks are illegal.
On a video clip on the company’s Twitter feed, James Clarence says Monarch is not a taxi service.