State gets tongue-lashing over Uber rape case delays
The four men accused of kidnapping and raping women using the Uber app have waited years for their trial to begin
It is unacceptable that the trial of a gang accused of posing as Uber drivers before robbing and raping their “clients” has not yet started, the presiding judge said on Monday.
A visibly annoyed Judge Ramarumo Monama told prosecutor Preshalia Ranchod that the three-year delay placed the criminal justice system in a bad light.
The four men, accused of kidnapping and raping a number of women in 2016 under the guise of being Uber drivers, were set to stand trial on Monday at the High Court sitting in Palm Ridge. However, the court roll was full, and in a bid to alleviate this Ranchod asked the court if the trial could begin next week.
But Monama was displeased with this suggestion, reading through the court record and noting more than a dozen postponements since the men were arrested.
“This doesn’t give a good image to the criminal justice system. This is almost three years,” he told Ranchod, labelling the delays as “unacceptable”.
The prosecutor explained that the first few postponements were part of the pre-trial proceedings, but the four men had had numerous problems with securing legal representation. She noted that while the trial was set down to begin in 2018, one accused had hired a private lawyer who later withdrew, thereby delaying the case even further while he applied for legal aid. She assured the judge that the case was ready for trial, and that all representation issues had finally been resolved.
Monama allowed the postponement, with the trial set down for next week.
The men, who cannot be identified until they plead due to the nature of their crimes, each face a combination of counts based on the incidents in which they allegedly took part, including rape, kidnapping, assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, and attempted murder.
One of the women was kidnapped, allegedly by three of the four accused, from Montecasino in Fourways, Johannesburg on July 6 2016. While one of the men posed as her Uber driver, the other two emerged from the boot, blindfolding her and tying her hands. Punched and threatened with a knife, she gave the men her ATM PIN. She was then raped and thrown from the vehicle down a steep embankment.
On August 2 2016, another complainant was kidnapped by a man who picked her up at Montecasino in an Uber vehicle. The woman was placed in the boot of the car before being abandoned at a mall.
The third complainant was picked up in Pineslopes, Fourways by the same driver, who was assisted by another man who had been hiding in the boot. The second man tried to strangle her, but she was able to break free, leaping from the moving vehicle.
On August 28 a couple was picked up from outside the Movida club in Sunninghill and, when the two men emerged from the boot, the man was stabbed, while his girlfriend was smacked in the face. The pair were tied up and blindfolded and allegedly taken to one of the homes of the accused, where the woman was raped before she and her boyfriend were released.
Since their arrest, the men, who are all from Germiston and Tembisa, have been in custody.