In a parking lot in Johannesburg’s most affluent area I glide between basement floors, security guards and flickering lights searching for a few familiar faces; Dusty, Richie, Windor and Jeeper.
In a world where nothing is constant, I can always be certain of their presence at Gautrain Sandton Station.
Time and again, without fail, they’ll stand there – on the exact same spot as last year and the year before – just waiting to be acknowledged, just waiting on their guardians, just waiting to be useful again. Their bodies are neglected and frail, bruised, cold, covered in dirt and dust and stripped for organs; their spirit is tired, their identity outdated and their legs amputated. Abusive slurs mocking their worth are finger-painted on their skin; hundreds of rail users pass them every single day; some glance, a few judge and others ignore.
They are the abandoned, the castaways, the orphans of Africa’s richest square mile; they are Dusty, Richie, Windor and Jeeper, some of the forgotten cars of Sandton Station.
Inside Sandton Station’s Parking Lot
Rail users rush from dusk till dawn to catch the Gautrain; from Monday to Sunday they drive in, swipe their Gold Cards, go about their day, swipe again and drive off again.
But what happens when people go about their day indefinitely?
Dusty, Richie, Windor and Jeeper happen.
When darkness sets up camp before and after the train’s operating hours an eerie scene of an automotive graveyard fills the presence of the closed parking lot; scattered over the floors of parking bays are a handful of vehicles that will spend the night while their owners are away on short business trips, but alas, the same fate does not await Dusty, Richie, Windor and Jeeper.
They’ve been left behind.
And when you peek into the window the licence disk catch your eye and you can’t help to wonder when they’ve been left behind and how expensive their parking ticket must be by now?
If you park for 15 minutes then it is free, if you park for an hour then you pay R15.
But one day is R19 (if you are a rail user who has left the parking lot within 60 minutes of tagging out of a train) and R100 for a non-rail user.
Long term parking for 5 days is R240 and R540 for 10 days.
And for every day after the 10 day parking period you will pay R540 plus R100 for every extra day.
The mystery of Badge-less Windor
Meet Windor, a possible late 90s Volkswagen Golf 3 (according to a car fundi of note). His market value is about R35 000, but that is if all parts are present. Windor has lost a window, his indicator light and even his VW badge. His licence plate is missing in action, his bumper is without some bits and he is filled with old newspapers.
And dust. Oh there is a lot of dust.
Windor left the city of Cape Town right about the same time as the gold rush hit Johannesburg and the expiry date on his licence disk says a lot about how long he has been orphaned: 2010-05-31.
Now, above and beyond the penalties from the traffic department for not renewing, it is safe to say that Windor has been a resident of Sandton Station for at least two years (or even since 8 June 2010 when the station opened), but to be even safer, let’s say for argument’s sake that it has been a year. Parking fee for one whole year at Sandton Station is 365 days x R100 + R540 = R37 040. Now what was the market value of Windor again? Ahh yes, R35 000.
Dusty is a real throwback oldie
Then we can’t ignore Dusty the late 80s/early 90s Toyota Cressida.
Dusty is a real oldie, even the letters and numbers on her blue GP licence plate have faded, all that is left is bumps and dusty lumps.
While Dusty’s licence disk penalties are not as severe (expiration date: 2016-01-31) the evidence on Dusty’s passenger seat is the start of a mystery: a road map opened up on page 56 for navigation to Sandton Station and the licence disk paper, cut out along the dotted lines of an escape. Where did Dusty’s owner go? What happened in January 2016?
Was it the drought, the arrival of Netflix on our shores or the South African Reserve Bank’s repo rate increase?
So many questions!
About 3 000 abandoned cars are annually auctioned off by police in Dubai; these cars are not like Dusty, it is usually top of the range, once-upon-a-time very shiny sports cars which were purchased via bank loans to keep up with UAE Joneses. They drive around in their brand-spanking new wheels, show a bit off, turn up the volume and then realise that keeping face can be an expensive affair so they park the car, flee the country and escape the Sharia law which states that not paying your debts is a criminal offense that can lead to jail time.
All the abandon sexy that is Richie the BMW Z4
Meanwhile, back at the South African ranch, we are still trying to comprehend the meaning of criminal, which brings me to Richie, the BMW Z4.
Now, I’m not saying that Richie’s owner fled South Africa due to non-payments on his sporty wheels, but I wonder how someone can just abandoned such a sexy and expensive speedster with its slim lines and fancy mags?
(Photo: Anje Rautenbach - Going Somewhere Slowly)
(Photo: Anje Rautenbach - Going Somewhere Slowly)
Do you just wake up one day and decide to donate a BMW Z4 to a parking lot? If you are the owner and still out there, do you want my bank account number to make a donation as well? Richie is a match made in heaven for those cleaners on Britain’s show of Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners; the dust gathers in mountains on the BMW’s body and if you are prone to allergies cover yourself in Allergex because Richie and its amputated clamped leg of a wheel shows no mercy.
Jeepers, steer clear of this one
And last on the list, but definitely not last in Sandton Station’s parking lot, is Jeeper, the mini 4x4 Jeep Cherokee.
Like the rest of his buddies, Jeeper is also covered in dust and dirt, has flat tyres, a clamped wheel and a licence that expired nearly three years ago but what makes Jeeper, the tough off-roader, stand out from the rest is the security notice from Gautrain lodged between the window, grime and wiper. Caution: Do not smoke nearby, the area is flamable it may catch fire!!!
Now if you ignore the typo and over-use of exclamation marks, you may wonder why something so flammable is not removed or secured at least? Is it not a high risk in an area where there are passengers, trains and other vehicles with flammable liquids?
Also, is smoking not actually prohibited inside the parking lot already? Actually it is, one of the Gautrain rules is: Smoking is not permitted within a 10 meter distance from any Gautrain building, in underground parking, on trains or buses.
Jeepers, I am so confused. But what is even more upsetting is the licence disk sticker, the name of a private day and boarding school for girls in Johannesburg and then on the window, written in the dust, the words: Miss u Daddy. I love you.
Dude, where’s my car in Gauteng?
Out of interest I pick up the phone and call Gautrain’s toll free customer centre; the waiting music is a bit too pam-pam-pam-paaaaam Beethoven or Mozart for my curiosity but I hold on for dear life and sanity until I hear the much awaited, “Hello, how may I assist you today?”
“Hi. Uhm. If I leave my car at Sandton Station and come back a year or two later, what will happen to my car”
There is complete silence on the other side of the line until I hear something resembling a “wow”.
“Well, it is not my car that I want to park there…”
Okay wait, I might sound like a looney who wants to park a car there that does not belong to me. Try again.
I continue and explain to the friendly and helpful voice that I’m just genuinely interested to know what happens to the abandoned cars. The friendly voice explains the costs involved for overstaying your welcome but when asked about removal he does not have enough information to help me so he logs a query, takes my details and we say our goodbyes.
While I did a bit of sitting, waiting and wishing (just like Dusty, Richie, Windor and Jeeper) for Gautrain to come back to me, I refreshed my K53 memory…
And under the section, Rules of the Road - Vehicle left or abandoned on public road, I read:
Subject to the provisions of any other law, no person shall leave a vehicle in the same place on a public road for a continuous period of more than seven days.
Now, I am not aware of any other law – whether set by Gautrain or the property owners – but the City of Johannesburg’s Metropolitan Municipality states in their parking grounds by-laws 23 (1) that:
Any vehicle which has been left in the same place in a parking ground for a continuous period of more than 14 days may, unless otherwise authorised by the Council, be removed by or at the instance of an authorised officer as defined in the Gauteng Provincial Road Traffic Act, 1997 (Act No. 10 of 1997), to the Council’s pound.
Then the Council should search for the owner and if the owner can’t be found the vehicle may, subject to the provisions of subsection (3) be sold by the Council auction.
But when I get to subsection (3) there are so many confusing words; especially the part about ticket-controlled parking grounds and how you are not allowed to remain in a parking ground after the expiry of the parking period.
Is there even an expiry period on Gautrain’s parking?
So many questions.
It is all very confusing; so much red tape and then there is the legal risk of damaging a car while moving it to the pound. But when I look at Dusty, Richie, Windor and Jeeper’s condition I don’t think a legal risk counts because the vehicles are already damaged by self-destruction and the elements and if Jeepers is not careful, by fire.
But between being confused and trying to decipher parking laws my mind is filled to the brim with questions.
Where did the owners go? Did they flee South Africa? Did they foresee the implications of the Cabinet reshuffle in a magic crystal ball? Why did the not just sell the car? Did they owe someone money? Are they on the lam? Are they checking up on their cars?
So many questions.
And the closest I got to an answer was Gautrain’s symphony of pam-pam-pam-paaaaam on the other side.
When you find yourself in Sandton Station again, look out for Dusty, Richie, Windor and Jeeper; they are the abandoned, the castaways, the automotive orphans of Africa’s richest square mile.
Also, hate to break it to you Gautrain, but if you were betting on getting about R37 040 per abandoned vehicle per year, I think you should chase other dreams; those owners are not coming back…
Anje Rautenbach is the writer behind the blog Going Somewhere Slowly, find her Facebook,Twitter or on Instagram!
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