This article was written for GroundUp.com
By Barbara Maregele
At least four women have been raped in less than three weeks in taxi-related incidents in and around Gugulethu, says Zoleka Mali, a counsellor at the Mosaic Centre for gender-based violence cases.
“The first woman was on her way to work. She got into an Avanza taxi. Two people were in the taxi, so she wasn’t worried. She said when those people got out, the driver drove to a quiet place and raped her,” she said. Mali said the suspect had been arrested.
She said the other woman had reported being raped by two men in a taxi just a few days ago. “They drove her from Gugulethu to Siqalo [near Philippi] and they both raped her. They put a tyre around her and just left her on the field,” she said. Police were still searching for the suspects.
Mali, who is assisting the two women at the Centre, was speaking at the launch of the #SafeRide campaign at the Gugulethu Square taxi rank on Thursday. The campaign is a partnership between gender rights group Sonke Gender Justice and the South African National Taxi Association Council (SANTACO).
The aim of the campaign is to address the high rate of sexual violence in the taxi industry. The initiative was piloted in Pretoria and the plan is to visit several taxi ranks across the country.
Sakhumzi Magengelele, a taxi owner attending the event, said he looked after female commuters passing through the Gugulethu taxi rank. “If I am here, they are safe. Just mention my name, everyone knows me. I got into the taxi industry more than 10 years ago and I think it’s safe here,” he said.
But standing just a few metres from him, Funeka Yabo from NY1, said she didn’t feel safe at the rank. “I go to work early so it’s usually quiet. Most of the drivers are very rude. Unless you get the same driver and get to know them, then it’s fine. The way they treat us women is shameful,” she says.
SANTACO president Philip Taaibosch said most of the people countrywide transported daily by taxis were women. He said the decline in the number of people using taxis was due to the lack of trust in the taxi industry.
“As taxi drivers and owners, we have a duty to ensure people feel safe in our care. Today, I carry the label of being a rapist because I’m a taxi owner. How does that make you feel that we are not trusted by the community?” he said, addressing a small group of taxi drivers standing at the Gugulethu rank.
“We are going to ensure that we spread the message against gender-based violence,” he said.
Edward Motala from Sonke said the campaign was targeted at men, urging them to get involved in addressing issues like violence against women and children.
“We are bring the campaign to where the men are. You’ll find them at the ranks and shebeens, that’s where we go to spread the message. The partnership with SANTACO just takes it a step further. A start is to remove all of the degrading art and things written on the taxis. Then, we can start to eradicate this issue,” he said.
Motala said the next event would be held at the Bellville Taxi Rank later this year.