Pretoria - While Taxify and Uber drivers claim they will not retaliate following the murder of their colleague Siyabonga Ngcobo, whose charred remains were found in the boot of a car in Sunnyside, they have blamed their metered taxis counterparts for his death.
Ngcobo, believed to be aged between 18 and 21, hailed from KwaZulu-Natal, and was a student at the Tshwane University of Technology.
He was allegedly kidnapped and set alight inside the boot of a Chevrolet Aveo after 10pm on Thursday night near Unisa’s Sunnyside campus.
The drivers said they were not killers or violent, but professionals who sought to comply with Uber and Taxify policies, which they said, discouraged retaliation.
They accused their attackers of being “old-fashioned” cab drivers who did not want to move with the times.
Last year he opened his events management company. He was doing his forth year at TuT. Then this year he decided to start driving for taxify. At 21, he was burnt alive in the boot of the taxify car in Pretoria.#JusticeForSiyabonga pic.twitter.com/TtFM4SsydT
Metered taxi drivers were determined to attack all mobile app-based services because of their “unmatched” affordable and convenient service, they said.
The chairperson of Pretoria Uber and Taxify representatives, Chris Ravhuhali, said: “We are not violent people and are not people who will retaliate. We are people crying out for help. There is not enough political will to end this violence and punish all the assailants.
“Our drivers are constantly being attacked and killed, but there are three police stations in this area - Sunnyside, Brooklyn and Pretoria Central. Violent metered drivers are walking all over us as if there are no police officers around.”
The drivers said there were more of them than metered taxi drivers, but their attitude was not to resort to violence. They said Uber tried to get security guards to protect passengers; however, these were often overwhelmed by armed metered taxis drivers and had no choice but to run for cover when confronted.
Gauteng Metered Taxi Council general secretary Hendrick Ndou said he could not confirm whether the attackers were their members or not. He said he knew for a fact that some criminal elements had infiltrated the conflict.
“There are criminals who attacked Uber and Taxify drivers and took their money in our name. There are also many drivers who are not registered metered taxi drivers but give the impression that they are our members, while that is not the case.”
Ndou said the association had also informed the government of these criminal elements and was expecting to hear what the solution would be.
“I know that from Thursday night some Uber and Taxify drivers attacked metered taxi drivers and smashed their vehicles.
“I am not sure if it was in retaliation or if it happened prior to the unfortunate incident,” he said.
Following violent incidents in the taxi industry last year, Gauteng Premier David Makhura established a special police task force to bring the Uber and metered taxi war situation under control.
He also appointed a special committee tasked with ensuring the taxi industry was integrated into the broader public transport system.
Police spokesperson Captain Daniel Mavimbela said: “Although the body of a man was found burnt inside a Taxify vehicle, it was too soon for the police to confirm that he was actually a driver without thorough investigations and a postmortem examination.”
Mavimbela confirmed that two vehicles believed to be metered taxis were burnt in the CBD on Friday. It was alleged that the vehicles were set alight by angry Uber and Taxify drivers who were retaliating, but this could not be independently verified.
MEC for Community Safety Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane said she was outraged by the killing of the driver.
“I am disturbed and disgusted by this brutal murder of a Taxify cab driver. I condemn this killing in the strongest possible terms and I am hopeful that no stone will be left unturned within the criminal justice system to bring the perpetrators of this callous crime to book,” said Nkosi-Malobane.
Taxify said it had already implemented measures to enhance the safety of its drivers and was setting up a dedicated team to deal with these kinds of cases.
Gauteng MMC for Roads and Transport Sheila-Lynn Senkubuge said: “On behalf of the City, I relay our heartfelt and sincere condolences to the family of the victim who has lost his life.
“We have called on law enforcement authorities to get to the bottom of these deadly acts and bring the perpetrators to book.”
The police have appealed to anyone with information that could lead to the arrest of the perpetrators to report to the nearest police station or send anonymous tip-offs to Crime Stop on 0860010111 or via Crime Line SMS on 32211.