Meter taxis under attack

2010-05-14 00:00

DRIVERS of a popular Pietermaritzburg metered taxi company have fallen victim to four incidents of robbery and hijacking in a month.

Metro Taxis boss Junaid Sayed told The Witness that his cabs have been attracting criminals.

In the first case about four weeks ago, one of Sayed’s drivers was robbed of cash and a satellite navigation system by thugs pretending to be customers.

In the second incident, “the driver picked up four guys and they intimidated him. Fortunately he was safe because the four guys ran away when they saw that our other cab was close to him. We don’t know what the outcome could have been,” Sayed said.

In the third incident, a driver was held at gun- and knifepoint simultaneously when three youngsters hijacked him. “The gun went off when he grabbed it and his hand was injured,” Sayed said.

The cab was found with damaged bumpers and doors and the sound system missing.

A few days ago, another driver was held up on his way to Sobantu. “A guy held him at gunpoint and about R500 was taken in broad daylight,” said Sayed.

Speaking to other taxi companies, The Witness learnt that robbery, hijacking and even murder have come to terrorise the metered taxi industry.

Duzi Taxis owner Nisha Sinanin said her cabs have been targeted three times in the last two months. She said some of her vehicles were found stripped.

She said cab drivers are targeted because they keep cash and “there is no forced entry into the cars.”

Schabir Sayed of Wilkens Taxis said one of his drivers was held up a month ago. “They took money and drove away in the car,” Schabir said.

He said hijackers have an edge at night. “I always advise my drivers not to pick up suspicious people at night.”

Wilkens taxi driver Nazir Mohan said working night shifts makes drivers vulnerable.

“During the day it’s nice to work but I don’t take chances at night. I don’t know how I’ll protect myself when I’m in danger. I just trust God,” Mohan said.

Ronnie Pillay, the owner of Ronnie’s Taxis, said he has lost count of the number of times his drivers have been victimised.

“Last month three men robbed my driver of money and a cellphone. They took the car away and we found it abandoned. The CD player was also removed,” he said.

A Durban metered taxi owner who asked to remain unnamed said the level of crime against cab drivers has declined recently.

“Since the shoot-to-kill law the scale has gone down,” he said.

The owner said African townships are no-go areas.

“Even police fear for their lives when they have to go there, especially at night,” he said.

According to Pietermaritzburg metered taxi bosses, no-go areas are Westgate, Masukwane taxi rank in Willowton and Imbali township.

SA Police Force Brigadier Phindile Radebe said police do not quantify cases in which metered taxi operators find themselves on the receiving end of crime.

“We would never release such stats,” Radebe said.

Junaid Sayed said criminals who target his cabs should watch out. He said they are in for a nasty surprise because measures to beef up his cab security system are under way.

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