Criminals in South Africa are using Uber to rob and rape passengers

Uber has new trouble in South Africa.
Uber has new trouble in South Africa.
Image: AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar
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A spate of violent attacks on passengers is adding to Uber’s woes in South Africa. In two separate incidents last week, men driving Uber cars attacked passengers of the ride-hailing service, police told Quartz on Sept. 15. Police believe the same suspects are behind the attacks in Johannesburg’s northern suburbs.

Previously a 64-year-old woman was attacked in July when she climbed into what she thought was the car she’d ordered. The woman spoke to a local magazine about her attack, saying she was driven to a secluded area, then robbed and raped by the Uber driver.

In another incident in August, a couple was ambushed by two men who were hiding in the trunk of their Uber car. The attackers robbed the couple and raped the woman. One of the men was a former Uber driver who’d stolen the car, according to a report in The Star newspaper.

After weeks of investigation, police arrested two men linked to last week’s attacks—an Uber driver and a security guard. A third suspect is still at large. The Uber driver fled Johannesburg and was traced to a neighboring province, police said. The two men were released on Monday, however, after the case was “temporarily withdrawn for further investigation,” police spokesman Lt.-Col. Lungelo Dlamini said.

“Once we have the case finalized we will be taking it back to court,” said Dlamini.

Uber closely collaborated with police in the investigation that led to the arrest of the former driver, the company said in a statement on the Uber South Africa Facebook page. The suspect had a valid Professional Driver’s Permit and had cleared all his background and criminal checks, Uber said.

The ride service also urged passengers to double-check the driver and vehicle’s details before accepting a ride and to share their lift details with family and friends through the app. Uber itself has recently been forced to hire private security to protect its drivers from ongoing attacks by metered cab drivers, fueled by Uber’s move to accept cash payments in South Africa.