South Africa: Gugulethu Residents Accuse Taxi Drivers of Crime

13 January 2020

Gugulethu residents have accused drivers of amaphela taxis of committing sexual assaults, house break-ins and robberies in the area.

Residents expressed their frustrations and anger during a meeting called by the Gugulethu Development Forum (GDF) at the Ikhwezi Community Centre on Tuesday night. Two members of the Gugulethu police station also attended the meeting.

Amaphela -- which means cockroaches -- refers to Avanza private car taxi operators. They offer shared trips for passengers at a minimum cost of R8.

The meeting, held at the Ikhwezi Community Centre in Gugulethu, facilitated by the Gugulethu Development Forum (GDF), was attended by residents and members of the neighbourhood watch. This follows a flurry of complaints by residents of increased incidents including house break-ins, robberies and sexual assaults allegedly by people who drive Avanza taxis.

During the meeting, the Forum's head of safety and security Ntandazo Ngcina apologised to residents for not having any representatives from the taxi industry present. "Most of them have not returned from their hometowns in the Eastern Cape yet," he said.

"We have heard reports from residents who say they have been raped by drivers. There are people who have been hijacked and I am not even going to touch on the numerous reports of house break-ins, especially those that happened in December where Avanzas were used as getaway cars," said Ngcina.

One resident in the hall recalled how he witnessed an amaphela passenger being robbed by a thief whose getaway car was the same Avanza taxi that dropped off the passenger moments earlier. "The Avanza that had just dropped the woman off sped off. This is a crisis and we need to leave here today with solutions."

Vincent Domingo, GDF's general secretary, said that their task team would focus on transport, especially amaphelas. He said the duties of the task team would include monitoring and regulating amaphelas.

"We want to include law enforcement members like traffic officers and police because we need their help. We also need to make sure that we have the correct information on whether these drivers have permits and which taxi owners their taxis belong to," he said.

Questions were also raised about whether there were any CCTV cameras monitoring the community for crime. Domingo said that on 21 January they would be meeting with law enforcement officials and taxi operators to find a working solution to residents' concerns.

JP Smith, Mayco Member for Safety and Security, said the City is looking to make changes to the provincial traffic act and the new traffic by-law. This, he said, will create more meaningful consequences for public transport operators that do not comply with the law.

"The City has steadily and consistently stepped up its enforcement of public transport vehicles by issuing thousands of fines every month and impounding vehicles. However, the repayment rate of these fines amongst the amaphelas is extremely low with a consequence that it never really achieves a change in behaviour on their side," he said.

As for the amaphela's alleged involvement in property and violent crime, Smith said he would be checking with metro police to see if this issue has been raised with them. "This should have been placed on record by the Gugulethu station commissioner. They alone get to see the crime statistics which are not shared with the City other than through the crime threat analysis presented from time to time by the station commissioner at his weekly station crime combating forum," he said.

GroundUp has gone to great effort to find an amaphela to respond to the allegations but no one has been willing to speak.

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