Uber and Taxify drivers protest outside the Boksburg magistrate’s court Picture: Nokuthula Mbatha / African News Agency
Johannesburg - “Who's next?" That's the question app-based taxi drivers are asking following gruesome attacks on operators affiliated to Uber and Taxify.

In the most recent ambush, Taxify driver Max Nyoni, 44, was shot and killed in Yeoville in the early hours of Tuesday morning, while two other drivers working for Uber and Taxify are recuperating - one at home and another in hospital - after they were stabbed and left for dead in separate attacks in Boksburg, Ekurhuleni over the past few weeks.

Gauteng provincial police spokesman Captain Mavela Masondo confirmed that a case of murder was being investigated.

“Police were called to the scene at about 2am," Masondo said, "and told that there was a body next to a car in Yeoville. Paramedics were also called and certified the man dead at the scene. We later confirmed that the man was a 44-year-old Taxify driver.”

Devastated

Nyoni’s nephew, Thabang Ndlovu, said the family was devastated. Nyoni, from Bulawayo in Zimbabwe, was married and had two children, aged 10 and 15. He had bought a car five months ago and joined Taxify.

“He had been a meter taxi driver since 1998," Ndlovu said. "Why did they kill him? Why didn’t they take whatever they wanted and leave him alone? His death has left a huge gap. He was the family provider,” said Ndlovu. 

Taxify had not responded to requests for comment at the time of going to print.

Uber spokeswoman Samantha Allenberg said: “We are aware of both of these awful incidents which are deeply upsetting and we continue to liaise with our driver-partners and give them our support. We are relieved that the suspects have been arrested.”

She said that once these incidents were reported, the individual’s access to the app was removed and the company worked together with police in their investigations.

In court

On Wenesday a man who allegedly stabbed a female driver working for both app-based taxi companies appeared briefly in the Boksburg District Court.

Jaques Henry Scharneck, 29, is facing charges of attempted murder and robbery with aggravating circumstances following the attack on the female driver on 26 December. Scharneck was out on parole for rape at the time of the attack. His case was postponed to February.

The 42-year-old driver, a mother of two children aged 11 and 21, was stabbed on the head, throat and back.

“I now have a problem with my lungs," she said. "I cannot walk or talk for long. I wish he could get a death sentence,” said the m

Speaking from a Vosloorus hospital bed, another Uber driver said he had 22 stitches following last Tuesday’s attack. The man, 29, was stabbed repeatedly in the head, face, hands and back by one of the two men he picked up in Boksburg East at about 11pm.

Piling up

Drivers pleaded for security to be beefed up to ensure their safety. The co-founder of drivers' organisation The Movement, Teresa Munchick, said cases reported by drivers were piling up in police stations. She called for more interventions from Uber and Taxify to ensure driver safety.

Masondo said only that police were “investigating cases whereby drivers were attacked by passengers".

Incidents between metered taxi drivers, who are losing market share and Uber drivers have become physical in the past months. The SA Meter Taxi Association has persistently denied any involvement in the attacks on Uber drivers.

The Star