Vigilante mob murders Bolt driver

A vigilante mob in Cape Town’s Parkwood area beat Bolt driver Abongile Mafalala to death and set his Toyota Avanza and broken body on fire, reports Rapport.

According to the report, a person on social media claimed that someone in a suspicious vehicle was abducting girls in the area.

Journalist and community safety expert Yusuf Abramjee said there were reports that three girls were kidnapped in Parkwood.

One of the girls apparently managed to escape, after which the community got hold of a suspect and attacked him.

According to Rapport’s article, Mafalala was transporting customers shortly after the child abduction allegations started circulating around Parkwood.

When the vigilante mob spotted his vehicle, they descended on him.

Mafalala’s two passengers fled before he was beaten, stoned, and assaulted with sticks and sharp objects.

His Avanza was stripped of its wheels and CD player before the mob smashed the windows and bodywork, and set it alight.

Police have reportedly apprehended four suspects identified from videos of the incident.

Parkwood community leaders told Rapport they had never experienced such a kangaroo court-incident. They blamed gangs in the area for stoking violence.

Foundation for Positive Change founder Rashaad Allen said the attack indicates a drastic turn.

“People are scared that children get kidnapped,” he said.

“Our children don’t play in the road anymore. In the mornings, Parkwood’s people walk in groups, afraid of being [robbed].”

Drivers for e-hailing services have often been the target of violence in South Africa. However, previously it has been linked to other players in the public transportation industry, specifically cab drivers and minibus taxi operators.

Recent research by University of Cape Town postdoctoral research fellow Leah Davina Junck found that social media-driver community watch groups fuelled fear and suspicion.

Junck found that desires to feel safe as a group, telling one another the same crime stories, and internalised fears become entangled in everyday surveillance practices.

Images of “suspects” would circulate on surveillance groups without much details of suspicious behaviour and more emphasis on how the person looked.

Community members would often engage in “couch patrolling”, making observations from their front window and following others’ posts on social media channels.

“Strategies developed by the neighbourhood watch group in Observatory to feel more in charge in what they felt was an out-of-control crime situation also meant maintaining a firm distinction between oneself and ‘the other,'” warned Junck.

In response to WhatsApp being used to circulate false allegations that could lead to mob violence, Meta Platforms (then Facebook) implemented limits on message forwarding.

WhatsApp first implemented the limits in India, where rumours spread on the platform led to killings and attempted lynchings.

Previously, a single message could be forwarded up to 20 times by a single WhatsApp user. The new limit is five for regular messages, and less for messages that have been forwarded many times.

“When a message is forwarded through a chain of five or more chats, meaning it’s at least five forwards away from its original sender, a double arrow icon and ‘Forwarded many times’ label will be displayed,” WhatsApp states.

“These messages can only be forwarded to one chat at a time, as a way to help keep conversations on WhatsApp intimate and personal. This also helps slow down the spread of rumors, viral messages, and fake news.”

Update: Uber South Africa said that it has conducted a preliminary investigation on the report that Abongile Mafalala was one of its drivers.

“We have undertaken a preliminary investigation of the incident and, considering the limited information we have, early indications suggest that the incident is not related to a driver operating on the Uber platform, said Uber SA communications head Mpho Sebelebele.

Bolt has confirmed that Abongile Mafalala was registered on the Bolt app.

Drivers are allowed to drive for both apps simultaneously.

Now read: Paying to get your Uber Eats delivery first — How it works

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Vigilante mob murders Bolt driver