Drivers fear for their lives

Envor Julies was shot and killed in Hillview last month. Picture: Leon Knipe

Taxi drivers driving the Seawinds, Lavender Hill, St Montague Village and Hillview routes fear for their lives following the deaths of two of their colleagues.

Envor Julies, 35, was shot and killed in St Patrick Avenue just after 6am on Tuesday May 17 and another driver suffered the same fate on Friday June 24 when he was shot in Hek Road in Lavender Hill at about 7am. The man later died in hospital on Sunday June 26.

Police station commander, Colonel Jan Alexander, said preliminary investigations have not established a motive and said talks of drivers being extorted by gangs haven’t been reported but they are still investigating the circumstances around both shootings.

However, Retreat Taxi Association (RTA) vice-chairperson, Sulaiman Brenner, said they suspect the drivers were robbed by gangsters.

According to Mr Brenner several taxi drivers were robbed on routes in Lavender Hill, Seawinds and Hillview and many don’t want to drive on the routes.

“Drivers are threatened almost daily by people who ask for money and there have been cases where guys would get into the vans and rob the people in the taxi.”

He said the drivers are intimidated daily and are scared for their lives: “The drivers are doing an honest living and putting bread on the table for their families and then these people rob them or their passengers.”

He said sometimes the passengers who are robbed insinuate that the driver was somehow involved with or facilitated the robbery and then ask their gang affiliated associates to target the driver.

“This is the reality of what is happening on the ground but people don’t realise that the drivers are also victims. It is getting worse now because our drivers are losing their lives and it’s causing so much fear.”

Mr Brenner said the Two Oceans Taxi Association, which is the regional umbrella association which Retreat and Steenberg fall under, is in talks to address the situation.

A driver who prefers to stay anonymous, in fear of being victimised, said they are faced with daily intimidations from gangsters. “Some of them get into the taxis pretending to be passengers and rob people of their phones and money and others demand money from us.

“It is hell and we are tempted to retaliate but fighting fire with fire is not going to be a good solution because at the end of the day the passengers are the ones who are going to suffer.”

Mr Brenner said the actions of these gangsters have a knock-on effect because if the drivers decide not to drive the mentioned routes, the residents who have to commute to work and school will be affected because they would have to find alternative transport.

“Many people have already lost their lives due to the pandemic. Now this will make things worse because people from the area won’t be able to get to work and likely lose their jobs.”

He implored those responsible for the recent robberies and shootings to leave the drivers and passengers out of gang issues.

“If you have turf and drug wars, leave the drivers and passengers out of it. The driver is trying to earn an honest living, some getting up at 3am to get their vans to come to work.

“Let them do their jobs as they are prescribed and leave the passengers who are trying to earn their bread and butter by going to work.”

Anyone with any information about this shooting incident can contact Steenberg SAPS on 021 702 9000 or Crime Stop on 08600 10111.