There have been at least six cases of late-night attacks on unsuspecting Uber passengers attempting to get a ride home in Pretoria in the last month, the South African Police Service (Saps) has stated.
According to a Sunday Times report, Kayleigh Marx, aged 25, experienced such an incident while taking an Uber trip home from the Springbok game at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria three weeks ago.
Marx explained that she and some friends had gone out in Menlo Park after the game, with their final stop before returning to a guesthouse being Lucky Rodrigo in Lynnwood.
Marx and a friend ordered their Uber ride back to their accommodation in the early morning hours.
However, just 300 metres from Lucky Rodrigo, the driver pulled over and unlocked the doors. Marx’s friend — wise to the fact that something was wrong — locked the doors again.
The driver then pulled a can of pepper spray out of the cubby hole and sprayed Marx’s friend before grabbing her iPhone and unlocking the doors again.
Two men allegedly approached the vehicle on either side, saying, “We’ll shoot you, we’ll shoot you!”. It was at this point that Marx’s friend told her to run.
She said one of the attackers had chased after her briefly before giving up and joining his accomplices in beating her friend.
Some of her friends were still at Lucky Rodrigo, and as they started running towards the attackers and the car, they jumped in and drove off, leaving Marx’s friend bruised all over his body.
Uber said the allegations were “concerning” and confirmed that it is conducting an internal investigation into the incidents.
It added that it limits a driver’s access to the ride-hailing app in such events to mitigate the risk of further incidents.
It said that, following the conclusion of the investigation, a decision may be made to “permanently remove” the driver’s access.
Marx’s experience was one of at least six that have occurred in Pretoria in the last month alone. One Uber customer had apparently experienced two incidents within the span of a year.
Uber customers aren’t the only ones at risk of being attacked in South Africa, with ride-hailing drivers again coming under threat in recent months.
In early June 2023, Uber and Bolt drivers were attacked at Maponya Mall in Soweto, with bystanders reporting that taxi drivers were responsible for the violence.
One video showed a man hitting another who was approaching a vehicle with a blunt weapon. Another man then walks to the car and starts smashing the windows.
Other videos showed scenes of vehicles on fire with gunshots going off in the background. Two people were injured in the attacks, and at least three vehicles were burnt.
The ride-hailing drivers took a further blow when they were banned from picking up or dropping off shoppers at any malls in Soweto for the next three months.
The arrangement formed part of an agreement between the Soweto United E-hailing Association and the Soweto Taxi Association.
In mid-July, Bolt and Uber drivers in South Africa threatened a “national shutdown” to protest ongoing safety concerns and low pay.
Ride-hailing drivers demanded, among other things, regulation in the industry and for companies to reduce the “extremely high” commissions they charge.
Their demands also related to ongoing safety concerns regarding hijacking, illegal vehicle impoundment, and ride-hailing drivers being targeted by taxi drivers.