Johannesburg - Fifteen.
That’s the number of e-hailing drivers hijacked, robbed and/or murdered in Gauteng alone so far this year.
Ekurhuleni seems to be the hotspot for e-hailing killings. Drivers say they are under attack and receive very little to no assistance from their employers or SAPS.
Late yesterday a frantic search was under way for Bolt driver Fundile Ludidi, who was hijacked near the Engen garage in Vosloorus on Thursday night. His car was found in Eldorado Park just as it was being sold.
In early October, an Uber driver was robbed and killed in Bosmont. He was dropping off food at a house when he was shot. The owners of the house knew nothing about the delivery and had not placed the order. Community leaders in Bosmont said they have since increased night patrols in the area in a bid to stem the crime tide.
A spokesperson for some 3 000 e-hailing drivers in Gauteng, Pule Mvelaso said he was aware of the Bosmont killing but added that what he heard were just rumours and he would not be drawn into commenting on that specific incident.
Mvelaso told Independent Newspapers that the Vosloorus/Kathlehong areas seem to be the hotspot for e-hailing driver robberies, hijackings and murders. He also slammed popular e-hailing platforms Uber and Bolt for their inaction insofar as driver complaints go. Often drivers work across Bolt and Uber platforms in a bid to make the most money.
“It’s terrible. They call us partners but they don’t act like it,” he said.
In and around Johannesburg, e-hailing drivers refuse to respond to call-outs in Rosettenville and Yeoville. In Pretoria, the Bosman area, near the taxi rank, is a no-go zone as drivers fear for their safety, despite losing out on money.
“We have asked for regular roadblocks but Uber SA and Bolt don’t have a relationship with SAPS. We receive no help from the police. When we report robberies to SAPS, they shrug their shoulders and say it’s one of those cases,” Mvelaso said.
In an unprecedented move, yesterday, the Gauteng E-hailing Partners Council (the only council recognised by the Gauteng Department of Transport) released a proposal with a list of names of e-hailing drivers who were ambushed from April this year. The statement read: “If one dies and used to make a living on the platforms the name should be on the list. Families deserve support and respect from apps.”
“Samuel Mothibi - Uber (died), Sizwe Mpofu - Uber (shot in the face, survived), Aubrey Dumisani Ngwenya - Uber (died), Aletha Maffini - Uber (shot in her head, survived), Brighton Gumbi - Uber (robbed, stabbed and survived),” the statement continued.
Head of communications for Uber South Africa, Mpho Sebelebele said their records do not reflect the attacks and murders claimed by Mvelaso.
“We are very concerned by these allegations and can confirm that we have no reports on our system that have been submitted regarding these specific incidents. Following information received about these types of allegations, we will immediately reach out to law enforcement to assist with their investigation,” she said.
Sebelebele stressed that driver safety is and has always been a priority for Uber.
“We take the concerns of drivers and riders seriously. We do monitor the situation on the ground and IRT (the Incident Response Team) is available 24/7 to respond immediately to any reported incidents,” she said.
On the issue of driver engagement, Sebelebele said Uber runs regular round tables both in person and virtually, attended by hundreds of drivers and delivery people across the country.
“These sessions represent a diverse range of drivers and delivery people, helping to ensure Uber understands the concerns of drivers across a broad spectrum. In addition, we proactively call drivers to gauge their sentiment and to collect feedback on a regular basis through our In-App Driver Satisfaction survey,” she concluded.
Since September, riders and drivers in Johannesburg and Pretoria have been able to record the audio of their trip and the recordings are encrypted and stored on the rider’s or driver’s phone.