Four men who allegedly attacked five Uber commuters will go on trial in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg.
The decision to transfer their case was taken by deputy director of public prosecutions Rasigie Bhika, and was contained in an indictment sent to the Randburg Magistrate’s Court, where the four appeared on Thursday morning.
Two of the men are aged 26, and the others 23 and 19. All are from Germiston and Tembisa on the East Rand. They may not be named until they have pleaded.
They face four counts of robbery, three counts of rape, three counts of kidnapping, two counts of attempted murder, one count of attempted rape and one of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
The matter was postponed to June 2 for pre-trial proceedings.
Ulrich Roux, the lawyer representing the victims, told News24 shortly after court adjourned that his clients were looking forward to the trial beginning and that they were happy with how police had handled the case.
On July 6 2016, one of the men picked up an Uber user at Montecasino, in Fourways, in a Ford Focus. He pretended to be the driver she had asked for and proceeded to drive her home.
According to the indictment, he allegedly passed a turn-off to the woman’s home. During this time, his two co-accused emerged from the boot through the back seat and tied the woman’s hands and covered her eyes.
They allegedly punched and throttled her to force her to reveal the PIN codes to her bank accounts. She was threatened with a knife and robbed.
The driver allegedly raped her in the car. She was then thrown out, down a steep embankment.
On August 2, 2016, the same man allegedly picked up another woman at Montecasino, this time in a VW Polo. During the trip, he allegedly stopped, told her he was not an Uber driver and pointed a knife at her.
He allegedly tied her up, blindfolded and gagged her and put her in the boot. He allegedly demanded her PINs, bought some liquor and tried to rape her, but put her back into the boot instead.
According to the indictment, he eventually dropped the woman off at a mall and made off with her belongings, including R11 000 in cash.
Four days later, on August 6, he picked up a woman outside in Pineslopes, Lonehill, in a silver VW sedan. During the trip, a man emerged from the boot and tried to strangle her with what felt like a piece of wire. She managed to free herself, opened the door and jumped out of the car. She was also robbed of her belongings.
On August 28, he allegedly picked up a couple at a nightclub in Sunninghill. After getting onto N1 freeway, two of the accused allegedly emerged from the boot and threatened the couple with knives.
One of them allegedly stabbed the man, assaulted the woman and pushed them both into the boot. They tied them up and blindfolded them.
They drove the couple to a house belonging to the fourth accused, where they were robbed of their belongings and asked for PINs for their bank accounts.
They were locked in a bedroom. A few hours later, the driver allegedly entered the room and demanded that the couple electronically transfer their funds to another account.
He allegedly fondled and raped the woman. The couple was later released.
Roux said his clients wanted the wheels of justice to turn as quickly as possible.
“It’s been a horrible experience, but it’s been great to see how the State and the police have worked together to ensure firstly, that these four accused were captured, that they were kept in custody, and that the matter is now going to the high court.”
The fact that the case was moving to a higher court indicated the seriousness of the offence, which would hopefully prove a good deterrent for would-be offenders, he said.
“The Uber service itself is a great, convenient service, but unfortunately this crime element has manifested itself. I haven’t heard any further incidents having taken place.”