Another rideshare war zone is South Africa, where taxi drivers have come together to fight the American and Estonian rideshare threats, Uber and Taxify.
The Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD), together with the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Police Department (EMPD) and the Department of Community Safety held another briefing on Tuesday with the Gauteng legislature's Committee on Roads and Transport on their combined strategies dealing with the violence that has erupted between taxi drivers and rideshare drivers.
This briefing comes after a horrific act of violence, where a young Taxify driver, Siyabonga Langelihle Ngcobo was found burnt to death in the boot of his car, leading to an eruption of outrage by every citizen in Johannesburg. This young, and promising student, aged 21, was studying for a degree in Sports Management at Tshwane University of Technology (TUT).
According to one official, the Operations Director for JMPD, Stephen Mosimane said that "In the three regions the places that are affected are the Gautrain stations, including… in Midrand, Sandton, Marlboro and Park Station." Mosimane added that "We got information from the stops that the drivers are using petrol and acid. We have a satellite in Midrand and in the Johannesburg CBD. Since these interventions, we have indeed seen a difference."
By working together, and combining both the manpower and Intel., Mosimane states that police will be able to improve their actions, "Initially when we began the operation, we saw retaliation, people were threatened. We found that some people were in possession of firearms and there was damage to property."
Another official, the Acting Reginal Director for the EMPD, Peter Maluleka stated that "The issue of the conflict between Uber and the metered taxi drivers erupts now and again, but it can be picked up through intelligence."
Xolisa Mdigwane, an official from the Department of Community Safety, claimed that the recent war, as it is being called, started from, "The reason that the violence between the Uber and the metered taxi drivers flared up [was that] metered taxi drivers felt that government favored Uber over them. They felt that there was this big monster that was coming to take away their livelihoods."
According to Mdingwane, 120 Uber cars and taxi's, as well as a further 70 vehicles have been seized and impounded. He stated to the media that "We have made arrests and one of the people was involved in the killing of an Uber driver. The one big arrest is when they blockaded the R21, and we arrested about 90 of them."
Mdingwane concluded that everyone thought the situation was improving after the initial police actions, but "until the killing of a young man, a 21-year-old, who was killed and placed in the back of his boot".
Mafika Mgcina, Chairperson of the committee, stated that "I would suggest that, at the March 15 meeting, you select a team that will lead the communication, that must include metro police, SAPS, and intelligence so that we can avoid speaking from different corners." He added, "But we have faith in the justice system." Concluding the meeting by asking all sides to find common ground to sit down and discuss the issue properly.
The committee met due to the death of the young Taxify driver, and his aunt stated to the media that "We cannot have his spirit roaming around Pretoria."
Siyabonga Langelihle Ngcobo
The war was on before the killing of this young man, but once the taxi drivers took the step over an invisible but acceptable social boundary, their actions doomed them to failure no matter how right their plight may be.
Nobuhle Mbonambi, Ngcobo's aunt, described him as being respectful, well mannered and quiet. A studious young man that became a martyr in the senseless war between taxi drivers and rideshare drivers in South Africa.
Ngcobo's body was found in the boot of his burn car on Thursday night (last week) close to the Unisa Sunnyside Campus. His aunt stated that "He's usually asleep when I leave for work, but that morning we spoke. As if he was saying goodbye. I feel like 'my son' died a terrible death that he didn't deserve. This whole war has to end before more kids die the same way."
Ngcobo is not the first person to die in the violence between the sides, but the nature of his death is so horrific that it has incited everyone to act harder and more focused on beating out the violence from the system.
Mbonambi told the mead that she wants people to speak out and added that "It happened at Sunnyside around 18:00. He was picking up children at a mall. Someone must have seen whoever took him and put him in the boot. People must go to the police station, so we can identify these people, and they need to be arrested."
So far, no one has been arrested, and no one is a suspect.
The Taxify officials have set up a special task force that is helping police with this issue. In the meantime, Mbonambi said "We need to put him to rest. We are very traditional people, and we cannot have his spirit roaming around Pretoria."
While police are investigating, and as the family mourns, students and family have come together to set up a social media action group #JusticeForSiyabonga, which was launched to help a system-wide search for clues that could lead to the capture of the murderers.
Ismail Vadi, The Gauteng roads, and transport MEC stated to the press that "They have crossed the red line. This violence has been going on between metered taxis, Uber and Taxify. People are doing whatever they want. This investigation must be conducted fully. Should the evidence point to the role of the metered taxi industry, if we have to shut down all operation metered taxis in this province, we will do that."
Vadi added "The situation in the past months had stabilized until a young man was picked up at a dam somewhere in the Pretoria area. This incident has shocked us all. There might well be a link to this case and that case. It warrants a different kind of response. We thought the situation had stabilized, but it's clear that this situation has gone to another level."
Vadi then called on the taxi drivers to help, "I don't believe all of them are involved. A vast majority who provide a legitimate taxi service is good people… We are here to support them, but we can't negotiate with criminality. We must join hands to isolate the criminal elements."
Ngcobo's funeral will be held at his home at Inanda, KwaZulu-Natal, this coming Sunday.