Johannesburg - Two bullet wounds, brutal assault and a burnt car ditched in an open veld. This was the gruesome manner in which Taxify driver Moipolai “Heavy” Sekati was found on Thursday after he went missing while working on Wednesday night.
The alarm was raised by his cousin Donald Senwelo on Thursday morning when Sekati hadn’t come home from work.
“He always slept at home and when I woke up and saw the car wasn’t there, I called him but his phone was off,” said Senwelo, who lives nearby in Diepkloof, Soweto.
He went two houses away to inform the family who employed him. They spent Thursday looking for the 44-year-old Taxify driver in hospitals, police stations and mortuaries. His corpse was eventually found at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital’s mortuary.
Sekati was the latest Taxify driver to be killed. Siyabonga Ngcobo, 21, was burnt and killed in Pretoria in March.
Dobsonville police spokesperson Captain Mbulaheni Netshivhodza said Sekati’s car was tracked to Snake Park, Doornkop, where residents claimed they saw something burning in the veld at about 8pm on Wednesday.
“A source in Protea informed the police that he was walking to the shop in the evening with his girlfriend when they saw a car reversing from an open field. They then heard gunshots, and when he went to investigate, they found a dead man,” Netshivhodza said.
He said that when they found Sekati, he had two gunshot wounds and had been badly assaulted.
The officer said police were investigating a case of murder and malicious damage to property. “Right now we can’t say if the killing was related to the taxi issue, but we will investigate all leads.”
Angela Leboa, who owns the car which Sekati drove, said he was like family to her. Sekati lived two houses from Leboa’s family home and he drove her five-year-old daughter to ballet classes and her injured mother to the hospital for check-ups.
“The last time we saw him was when he picked up my daughter and took her to ballet class. I don’t know how I am going to tell her that he is dead,” Leboa said.
Leboa employed Sekati last year and said he loved the job.
“He never complained. The only time we had problems was over Lent when his phone was stolen by a passenger. At that time I told him we should stop operating but he wanted to continue,” she said.
Sekati was described as a friendly person who loved singing. He sang tenor for the Joburg metro police choir. After news of his passing, members of the JMPD gathered at his home in Diepkloof.
Teresa Munchick, from The Movement, an advocacy group for Uber and Taxify drivers, said they were in talks with Taxify to find out when his last trip was. “Even if the murder didn’t happen during a trip, the drivers are attacked in places they wouldn’t usually be in were it not for the job.”
Munchick said the e-hailing companies swept the number of attacks on drivers under the rug. It was therefore hard to say how many drivers had been attacked or killed during a particular period.
“There are about 10 000 Uber drivers and 5 000 Taxify drivers. The attacks that we hear about are just a drop in the ocean. Everyday drivers are robbed of their cash and cellphones. In other cases, they are physically attacked, but we never hear of it.”
A Taxify driver was killed in Alberton last weekend.
A Taxify spokesperson said the company’s high-priority team was co-operating with the police in the investigation.
The company was working hard to improve driver safety. “Taxify recently partnered with Namola to launch an emergency response button that will enable drivers to call for assistance and armed response should they be in danger.
“Taxify is continuously building relationships with law enforcement as well as regularly communicating with drivers about possible high-risk areas. We also have a dedicated high-priority team that deals with cases related to safety.”