By Dorothy Mabelebele and Searatoa Van Driel
On Sunday, 18 March 2017, a woman traveling with her 10-year-old son in Soweto got into a Quantum minibus on Ontdekkers road, Johannesburg, thinking it was a taxi. When inside the taxi, three men held her and her son at gunpoint and raped her for four hours. The gang of men also forced her to give them her ATM card and PIN, and withdrew money serveral times from her account. Speaking to media in the days after her ordeal, she said she hoped to encourage other victims to come forward and report what had happened to them.
Within hours, there were reports of many more women in the greater Johannesburg area coming forward who had been raped by a gang of men in a Quantum minibus pretending to be a taxi transporting passengers. These crimes have been happening for the past few weeks, and some of these victims had reported the rape cases but were sent away by police.
On 23 March, after much controversy in the media around the lack of assistance by the police towards the victims, Gauteng MEC for Community Safety, Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane met with the Gauteng National Taxi Alliance, and in a statement made, confirmed that the men suspected to be the gang in question were taxi operators, and that the taxi in question where the rapes took place was registered with the alliance. Nkosi-Malobane said she wanted to give the Gauteng National Taxi Alliance an opportunity to show their willingness to protect their customers and particularly women by co-operating with the police to find the men guilty of these crimes.
Nkosi-Malobane said that her department and police are investigating the lack of assistance and violation of the rights of the victims, saying “reports of police officers denying rape and sexual assault victims their rights are common”. She continued, stating that more than seven women have come forward with cases of ‘taxi rape’ and that they are receiving counselling from the government. The meeting between MEC, police officials and the taxi industry leadership led to the arrest of three men who appeared in Newlands Magistrate’s Court in Westbury, Johannesburg on 27 March. The case was postponed to April.
Another case reported happened on the weekend of 1 April, where a couple was hit by a group of men in a taxi at high speed, then abducted, taken to the open veld and the woman raped in front of her husband. It is believed that the men then stoned the couple, set them alight and left them to die on the Impala road, Krugersdorp. Eight people, including a minibus driver, were arrested in connection with the crime.
The Dobsonville, Roodepoort, Leratong Johannesburg Taxi Association urged their members to assist the police with violence against women and has set up a hotline for commuters to report violence and rape cases.
Karibu! interviewed Charity Manyatsha, age 29, from Protea Glen, Soweto who uses taxis as her main form of transport said that “We are not free in our own country where women are abused by men instead of protected.” She said the taxi industry needs proper training on how to treat passengers, especially women.