Tow truck ‘bribery’

Tow truck operators have accused police of colluding with some tow truck companies by giving them accident tip-offs in exchange for kickbacks.

They allege 10111 operators as well as police officers who attend accident scenes are in on the act, and are accepting bribes of up to R2 000 for preferential treatment.

Disgruntled tow truck companies on Monday submitted a memorandum to the SAPS radio control unit in Hilton. They vowed to lay criminal charges against the unit if there was no positive feedback within seven days.

They warned they will take matters into their own hands and use violence against unscrupulous members of their industry should police not come to the party.

The memorandum was signed by 14 Pietermaritzburg-based towers, who said they have been suspicious of underhanded behaviour by police for years.

Tow truckers even linked a recent report in The Witness where several 10111 calls went unanswered for an accident on New England Road, amid claims that the driver involved was linked to one of the allegedly corrupt tow operators.

After a brief meeting with the radio control hierarchy on Monday, the aggrieved tow truck operators told The Witness that “dirty” operators have tainted the entire tow truck industry with a bad name.

“We all have an understanding that it’s first come, first serve at an accident scene. But for some accidents, police officers will tell us, ‘You’re not taking this car’. So that means even patrol vehicles are involved,” said Nolan Naidoo, of Redline Auto and Towing.

Another operator, Jason Naidoo of Mac’s Towing, said this behaviour from police was leaving the public at the behest of unruly tow truckers.

“We come across a lot of accidents where the car will be gone and the customer doesn’t even know where it went. We pick up people at the side of the road who have no idea where their cars are … then they’re made to pay thousands to retrieve it from a yard.”

He explained: “Insurance companies pay us R1 200, at most R1 500, when we do a job. These guys [corrupt towers] are able to bribe with R1 000 or R2 000 because if they’re first to a scene then they can do what they want.

“We have even seen times when people were still injured and in a car while it was being towed.”

Operators said they were told that the commander of the radio control unit was out of town, but they had spoken to an acting head who said they would pass the memorandum to the commander.

“This should make some impact; it’s our first step through the door. The ball is in their court now,” Jason Naidoo said.

This situation is compounded by the recent phenomenon of “turf wars”, where towing operators were said to use mob tactics to strongarm certain areas to operate in, as The Witness previously reported. Towers said the overall situation meant their businesses were affected badly, cutting deeply into their pockets.

Jason said: “If we get no joy, this will escalate to violence and we will take them on. This job is our bread and butter and our families must eat.”

Police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbele said the allegations would be investigated, and urged people with information to come forward.