Pretoria - A Limpopo taxi owner who was allegedly conned when he bought a minibus – not knowing that the vehicle still belonged to the bank – successfully turned to the court when, under duress, he had to surrender his newly-bought taxi .
Koketso Tlou Mantikwe was transporting commuters in Polokwane when a tracer, appointed by Absa Bank, suddenly stopped him and demanded the vehicle back.
The tracer told Mantikwe the Toyota HiAce belonged to the bank and not to him.
Mantikwe, who had paid R310 000 for his taxi and had the registration papers to prove it, tried to explain that he was the legal owner of the vehicle.
He was, however, told by the tracing agent that he was in all probability conned, as the previous owner still owed a substantial amount of money on the vehicle, so Absa Bank still owned it.
When Mantikwe phoned the seller to find out what was happening, the seller abruptly ended the call and blocked his number.
In a bid not to cause trouble and to be a law-abiding citizen, Mantikwe, on instruction from the tracer, drove the vehicle to the premises of Absa in Polokwane, where they store all their repossessed vehicles. He subsequently turned to the Limpopo High Court, in Polokwane at the end of last month, in a bid to get his taxi back.
He told the court that he legally bought the vehicle from the former owner and paid the full amount over to him in order to start his own taxi business. He had the registration certificate to prove it. He said he was unaware that the seller owed the bank and was in arrears with his payments.
In November, while transporting his passengers on a special trip, he was stopped by a man employed by the bank to trace vehicles and repossess them. Mantikwe said he asked the tracer if he had a court order to repossess the vehicle, but the tracer told him he “does not work with court orders”.
According to Mantikwe, he realised he was not going to win the fight. He assisted his passengers to get alternative transport and after that the tracer took the vehicle. He said after realising that he was probably scammed when he bought the vehicle, he did not want to be involved in any fraudulent scheme and would rather settle the matter in an amicable manner.
Absa and the tracer argued that Mantikwe was not deprived of his vehicle, but said he voluntarily surrendered it as he drove it himself to the bank. Therefore, they argued, there was no need to give it back.
Mantikwe denied this and said as he saw that trouble was brewing, he had no choice but to give his taxi back.
Absa, meanwhile, launched a counterclaim, asking the court to issue a preservation order regarding the vehicle, pending the outcome of further legal proceedings against the former owner.
Judge Maake Kganyago, however, said there is nothing before the court to prove that Mantikwe voluntarily surrendered the vehicle. The judge said Mantikwe made it clear he was unaware the vehicle was owing money.
The judge added that the tracer told Mantikwe that, if it appears that he was indeed in possession of a fraudulent registration certificate for the vehicle, the matter would have to be investigated by police.
“The second respondent (the tracer) was indirectly threatening the applicant with the police, which in turn will render the applicant to be vulnerable and in a weaker (position of) bargaining power.
“The second respondent was in a position of authority and was using tactics which would render the applicant to ultimately hand over the vehicle,” the judge said. He concluded that as Mantikwe was threatened with the police, he did not hand the vehicle back voluntarily and therefore the bank had to hand it back to him.