Bogus Uber drivers accused of rape clam up
The trial has finally begun after 2½ years, but now the accused have refused to provide plea explanations
Three of the four men believed to have formed a gang that used the Uber app to rob, rape and kidnap Johannesburg women have refused to provide plea explanations in their criminal trial, choosing to remain silent on the bevy of charges against them.
Elias Mankgane, Daniel Maswikaneng, Treasure Bonga and Themba Mkuwanazi – who can now be identified after pleading to the violent sexual charges they face – appeared on Monday afternoon in the High Court sitting in Palm Ridge where their trial began. They are accused of four kidnapping incidents where Mankgane would allegedly use his Uber driver status to pick up women, and in one incident a couple. His accomplices would usually be hiding in the back seat or boot of the car, where they would rob, rape and sometimes try to kill their targets.
According to the charges read to the court on Monday, the group would attack their targets in various combinations, though in the most violent incident all four men were involved.
In the first incident, Mankgane, Maswikaneng and Mkuwanazi picked up Susan Dey – the mother of singer Tamara Dey – near Montecasino in July 2016. The state believes she was targeted so the men could take her handbag, but she was subjected to a brutal beating and strangulation before being raped and thrown down a steep embankment.
Dey has since spoken out publicly about the crime, although she and her fellow complainants have yet to testify more than two-and-a-half years later owing to the stalled criminal proceedings which only began on Monday.
In the second incident, in August 2016, only Mankgane is alleged to have been involved. He is accused of kidnapping another woman from Montecasino before she was forced to withdraw thousands of rand for him.
Mankgane also allegedly assaulted the woman before trying to rape her, but he was unsuccessful. She was later abandoned in the parking lot of a mall.
In the third incident just a few days later, Mankgane, Maswikaneng and Mkuwanazi allegedly kidnapped Tracy Stockwall, taking her valuables and threatening her before another man tried to kill her with an item she later described as a “wire”. She was able to punch the driver and escape from the moving vehicle.
All four accused were allegedly involved in the final attack, in which a couple was picked up near Movida Lounge in Sunninghill. The couple was threatened with knives and forced into the boot of the vehicle before being taken to an RDP house and held for hours. The man was stabbed and his girlfriend was raped.
On Monday, the four men pleaded not guilty to their respective charges among the 14 emanating from the incidents, including rape, attempted murder, kidnapping and robbery with aggravating circumstances. Only Mankgane said he would be willing to provide a plea explanation.
Judge Ramarumo Monama told the other three accused that by not offering a plea explanation they were essentially saying the state would simply have to prove its case against them, which the three accused confirmed. The case was adjourned and is set to continue Tuesday.
Last week, Monama said he was deeply concerned about the delays in the case, which prosecutor Preshelia Ranchod said were mainly caused by the accused changing their legal representatives, who had to familiarise themselves with the case.
Since their arrest, the men, who are all from Germiston and Tembisa, have been in custody.