Driving schools put the brakes on lessons

Chariesse Cann and Leticia Smit of Claremont and Southfield respectively say DriveCo and Honeybee have taken them for a ride after they paid
R5 600 for driving lessons they didn’t get.

Honeybee owner Zahier Mohamed told me, “We follow all consumer act regulations and provide the required stipulated customer options”.

The owner of DriveCo, Naguib Haniff, said, “In March 2018, I was receiving medical treatment and left the management of the business to staff. I am back and here to resolve all complaints.”

Ms Cann booked one lesson for her son with Honeybee in Kenilworth. “Callum wanted the same driver, Thabiso, so I paid R1 800 for another nine lessons. Callum made five appointments with Thabiso, but he always had an excuse: no car, no phone, no airtime, then he suggested Callum take a taxi to meet him at Honeybee. But nobody arrived,” Ms Cann said.

Honeybee employees Fagrie, Raees, Gib, Sam and Alfonso promised to resolve the issue. They didn’t. Alfonso was 30 minutes late for the one lesson he did give Callum; it was for 45 minutes, not an hour.

Ms Smit said DriveCo offers a variety of packages online. “They fetch you for your first ‘free’ lesson which is a 30-minute presentation and an assessment of your driving skills. I paid R1 800, got a receipt and arranged my ‘next’ lesson, which I didn’t get. They said the driver who collected me didn’t work for DriveCo; he happened to be there ‘and stole my details off their system’, so they have no record of receiving my money. My son joined a few days later, did the first ‘free’ lesson, paid R1 800 and got a receipt too. He did get another lesson but no more,” Ms Smit said.

Mr Mohammed said he didn’t know why people assumed DriveCo and Honeybee were one. “We are separate owners,” he said.

But Ms Cann paid DriveCo and an email to Ms Smit is signed by Mr Mohamed and Mr Haniff.

Mr Mohammed said: “No one took anyone for a ride. I’m able to pre book all lessons. I’m able to upgrade packages and book non-cancellation lessons. If lessons that I book personally are not met, then I issue a refund. We have hundreds of happy customers. All businesses have complaints; we are willing to resolve ASAP. If any of the lessons I book are missed, I will issue a refund. That’s the normal remedy for urgent complaints.”

Ms Cann is still waiting for a refund and her son for the driving lessons.

DriveCo is not a member of the South African Institute of Driving Instructors (SAIDI).

“There is no driving school authority. They are a self-appointed authority who registered a company named SAIDI, and market themselves as a driving school authority, who are not government authorised, charging schools a fee, for a sticker to be put on their car. They have no government authority to oversee any driving schools, and they are scamming driving schools out of a monthly operating fee” Mr Haniff said.

“We have a government registration vendor number. We provide lessons to the Department of Transport (DoT) staff and have been doing so for years and have all our company registration documents as well as our driving school government vendor registration number. SAIDI have not contacted us about any complaints, but have listed us on their website as a scam. Ask them if you can see their driving school authority documents,” Mr Haniff said.

I did and SAIDI showed me. Queries to the DoT went unanswered.

“DriveCo is a very good driving school who has made things very easy for students and we were the first to offer traffic register applications for foreigners, the first to offer free video and animation courses, free driving simulator classes and free learners’ classes. We have thousands of happy students and referrals. We have serviced over 27 000 students. We resolve all student complaints and they can contact me on my direct email,” Mr Haniff said.

Pat Allen, national president of SAIDI, said they had received numerous complaints, the first one in October last year and “we have issued a warning about them”.

“They are not members of SAIDI, otherwise we would have stopped what they are doing. Mr Haniff claims SAIDI has no authority, but does he or the people he employs have valid instructor’s certificates? If so, we would like to see them. SAIDI is a registered NPO constituted in 1977 and has all the government documentation to prove it. SAIDI sits on various forums including the DoT, provincial departments and the Road Traffic Management Corporation,” Ms Allen said.

In a twist, Riaz Fakir and Sylvia Friedman wrote to The Cape Argus complaining about Honeybee and DriveCo respectively.

Richard Talliard, a driving instructor and owner of Jayzee Driving Academy in Heathfield, told the Argus in a letter (March 4) “that the industry is disgusted at the behaviour of DriveCo, Honeybee and SA Driving Academy, which is the same company”.

Mr Talliard wrote that in 2007 he had presented a draft for regulating the industry to the DoT because the province said it was a national matter.

Ms Allen said legislation for the driving school industry did not exist. The regulations need to be amended before they become legal.

Aggrieved clients should approach the Small Claims Court.

Emails that were sent to DriveCo and Honeybee on March 11; March 14 and March 18 hit a brick wall.