Amaphela taxis picking up and dropping passengers outside Gugulethu Mall. Picture: Bheki Radebe / African News Agency
Cape Town - Concern is mounting over the number of Amaphela (sedan) taxis - commonly known as cockroaches - that have been linked to criminal activity. At least three robberies allegedly perpetrated by criminals operating the Amaphela were recently reported.

Police spokesperson Noloyiso Rwexana said: "Police have noted with concern crime involving the Amaphela taxis.”

Toyota Avanzas are used as taxis in Nyanga, Gugulethu and Philippi, one of which was recovered last week in Brown’s Farm with three flat-screen TVs, three remote controls, a speaker, four bags including a sling bag, a passport and some documents in it.

Rexwana’s colleague FC Van Wyk said occupants of the taxi, which had no registration number, attempted to flee while the vehicle was in motion after they saw police, but when the police managed to arrest some of the occupants, the owner and driver came forward.

The driver said he was hijacked while driving in Gugulethu. He said the suspects instructed him to drive to Ottery and went to a certain house, then came out with the recovered items.

“This is the second incident in which Avanza drivers claim to have been hired by suspects to take them to an area where they commit house robberies," Van Wyk said.

"A 38-year-old suspect was also arrested for a house robbery incident in Brown’s Farm. That driver also claimed he was hired by the suspects of another area to transport them and their loot.”

Robbed at gunpoint

Regular Amaphela commuter Sinazo Dinga, who was robbed while inside a taxi, said she was fearful of using the taxis again. Dinga was on her way home on 9 November 2017 when she was held at gunpoint and robbed of her two cellphones and valuables.

“It was just myself and the driver in front with two decent-looking men seated at the back," she said. "Within minutes of boarding the taxi, the men instructed the driver to lock the doors and proceeded to rob me.”

Dinga said the incident took place in Nyanga. As the taxi approached the traffic lights at Borcherds Quarry, she was dumped on the side of the road.

“The way it all happened, I don’t know whether the driver was involved in this or not," she said. "I still struggle getting over this incident.”

False pretences

Nyanga Community Police Forum chairman Martin Makazi said they were inundated with reports linking Amaphela to criminal incidents.

“Not everyone driving Amaphela is involved," he said, "but there are some incidents where drivers use the taxis for crime. You find in some instances the robbers are friends with the driver and they hire the taxi under false pretences.”

Both the CPF and police said they were engaging with the taxi’s association. Executives of the Kiki Murray Amaphela Taxi Association were not able to comment at the time of going to print.

Cape Argus