File picture: Mujahid Safodien/AP
Johannesburg – A couple from the Democratic Republic of Congo wouldn’t have known what awaited them as they boarded a Uber-affililated cab shortly after landing at OR Tambo International Airport on Sunday.

Among their valuables in the white Toyota Corolla Quest as it made its way to their hotel in Morningside in Sandton were jewellery, cash, cellphones and a suitcase filled with clothes.

Things turned nasty as soon as their cab pulled up outside their hotel and the couple alighted.

Three armed men in a white BMW confronted them, demanding their goods.

The men in the BMW had been following the Corolla from the airport, according to Gauteng police spokesperson Captain Mavela Masondo.

“The guys (robbers) opened fire on them during the course of the robbery. There was a scuffle between the robbers and the couple. The couple were allegedly resisting handing over their belongings,” Masondo said.

He said the couple were wounded in the upper body.

“Jewellery, cash, cellphones and their suitcase with clothing were taken from them,” said Masondo, adding that the cab driver’s cellphone was also stolen.

He said the incident happened at about 6am.

Sunday’s robbery was the latest in a string of incidents involving people targeted by armed criminals and robbed while travelling from the airport.

Masondo said the wounded couple were taken to hospital and were reported to be in a serious but stable condition. The driver escaped unharmed.

The three robbers fled in their getaway car, he said, adding that a hunt was under way for the gunmen.

A case of armed robbery and attempted murder has been opened.

In a statement, Uber confirmed that the driver was an Uber driver-partner but was not online during the incident.

"It was a private trip arranged between the riders and driver and therefore this was not an Uber trip as it was not booked through the Uber app," it said.

In recent weeks, there has been a surge of attacks where people are followed from the airport, with businesspeople, foreign and local, being the main targets.

Several tourists, an Ethiopian businessman and South Africa’s Competition Commission deputy commissioner Hardin Ratshisusu were some of the recent victims.

Police have vowed to increase their presence on the N12 East and West after several people were robbed on Saturday night by criminals who had placed rocks on the road in a bid to obstruct motorists and rob them of their goods.

In a WhatsApp message, the local community policing forum (CPF) explained that a Toyota travelling on the N12 East hit a rock just after the Samfur Bridge.

“The Toyota’s right front tyre and rim were damaged after it struck the rock.

“As the driver pulled over onto the side of the road, he was surrounded by about 20 men.

“The driver’s side window was smashed by one of the attackers, who robbed the occupants in the car of their cellphones and wallets.

“The car’s radio was also ripped out and stolen before the group of thugs fled into a nearby informal settlement,” the CPF message said.

“The other vehicle, a late model VW Beetle travelling on the N12 West and heading towards Lenasia, hit a rock on the highway just after a pedestrian bridge.”

The message said the Beetle’s left front tyre and rim were damaged, but luckily nobody approached the occupants.

The CPF urged motorists to reduce speed and exercise caution when travelling on the N12.

Masondo said they would be marking the area down as a hotspot for crime and emphasised that police would increase their visibility in the area as well as deploy more members in a bid to stop such incidents.

“We are appealing to drivers not to stop their cars and get out, especially at night, even if their car has hit a rock planted by criminals.

“If you feel unsafe, don’t stop your car. Rather drive to safety before getting out to check any damage, as this opens the door for criminals to act,” he warned.

Other Incidents

June 14 - Four men rob three people of cash and cellphones in Morningside, Sandton, after following them from OR Tambo International Airport. The robbers flee in a white Mercedes-Benz.

June 4 – A group of seven tourists are robbed outside a guest house in Rivonia, also after being followed from the airport.

May 25 – An Ethiopian businessman is kidnapped from the airport and tied up in a house in Kensington by three men. His family are given a ransom demand, while R25 000 is used fraudulently by the robbers. Police are alerted and arrive at the house where they arrest the trio.

May 25 – South Africa's Competition Commission deputy commissioner Hardin Ratshisusu is followed home from the airport and robbed.

May 15 - A shuttle driver is shot and killed on the airport highway during an attempted diamond robbery on six Indian business people.

The Star