Tow truck war brews

Vehicles burnt in arson attacks amid bitter allegations of racism and monopoly.

‘ This is a racist industry, black people just can’t get in

Death threats, arson attacks, allegations of racism and a monopoly have signalled a brewing confrontation in Nelson Mandela Bay’s notorious and highly lucrative tow truck and vehicle repair industry.

National insurance giant Santam has found itself in the middle of the fray.

Arson attacks on vehicles of two competing companies in Port Elizabeth in the past two weeks have threatened to spark violent confrontation between the companies. Although a number of tow truck companies operate in the Bay, the industry is dominated by Crash Motors Towing and Recovery, Precision Tow-In and relative new-comer V &R Auto Towing.

Speaking from his Walmer premises this week, V&R owner Raven Rungan said confrontation was looming in the industry because insurance companies refused to list small and non-white owned companies as service providers.

“Everything has changed in South Africa over the past 20 years and all races have access to all types of business.

“This is except for [vehicle] recovery and repair shops in the Eastern and the Western Cape.

“This is a racist industry, black people just can’t get in,” he said. Rungan, 43, who made headlines when he pleaded not guilty in court late last year for culpable homicide and drunkdriving that resulted in the death of a Muir College pupil, Anre Grobbelaar, 18, on December 3, 2010. The case is ongoing.

The flamboyant businessman, who contends that threats have been made on his life, also made the news in 2013 when he reportedly splurged out R180 000 on a party to celebrate his daughter’s 16th birthday at the Radisson Blu hotel in Port Elizabeth.

Meanwhile, in response to Rungan’s claims, established tow-truck business owner Dave Mandel and Santam have hit back.

Santam spokesman Donald Kau yesterday confirmed the unrest in the tow truck and vehicle repair industry was fraught with issues and regular incidents of violence. He denied that Santam discriminated on the basis of race.

“In fact, with regards to V&R, they are on our supplier base for their towing services, but this is under strict conditions. Due to unpleasant dealings with V&R Auto, the repair shop part of the business is not on our supplier list.”