‘I asked him to rather kill me’: victim of bogus Uber driver
The defence comes down hard on the complainant, calling her version of events ‘improbable’
A harrowing day of testimony for one of the victims of the so-called Uber rapist gang ended with the young woman being accused of concocting an improbable and unbelievable version of events.
The suspected gang appeared at the High Court sitting in Palm Ridge on Wednesday for their third day of trial, accused of using the Uber app to kidnap, rape, rob and, in some cases, try to kill multiple Joburg women in 2016.
While Elias Mankgane, Daniel Maswikaneng, Treasure Bonga and Themba Mkuwanazi have pleaded not guilty to all of the charges against them, they have had to face their alleged victims this week as the women took the stand to give their terrifying versions of the nights they were kidnapped.
On Tuesday, one woman began the proceedings by detailing how she was allegedly almost raped by Mankgane, who spent hours driving her around the city and repeatedly threatened to murder her.
On August 2 2016, she had been waiting for her ordered Uber to arrive at Montecasino when she noticed a silver VW Polo sedan that matched the description on the app, down to the registration number.
She introduced herself to the driver, who called himself “Chris”, and she got into the back seat of the car.
Rather than stopping at her destination, Fourways Mall, he pulled over at a parking lot in front of a Game store.
“He pulled out a knife. He said this is not an Uber, and I started screaming … He told me to stop screaming or he’d kill me,” she told the court.
He then allegedly pulled out brown masking tape and bound her eyes, mouth and hands before dropping the back seat of the car and rolling her into the trunk, trapping her inside.
For the next 30 minutes, she estimated, they drove until eventually stopping on a gravel road. He untaped her mouth and began asking her for the PIN numbers to the three cards he’d found in her handbag. He threatened to kill her if she gave him the incorrect numbers, so she said she felt she had to comply, she testified.
She was thrown back in the boot, and the car began moving before he stopped yet again and began interrogating her about the limits on the cards.
She said she was only aware of the limit on one of them, but not the other cards, which belonged to her husband. Mankgane also confirmed her husband would get SMS notifications every time he withdrew, but he continued to drive along and withdraw from numerous ATMs at different stops.
Eventually they stopped outside what the young woman believed was a bottle store or tavern, as she could hear the clinking of glass, music and people chatting. She was warned not to speak, and was threatened again if she did not remain silent.
She alleged he was able to purchase a large amount of alcohol, as she heard someone ask him if he was planning for a party.
They drove off again, stopping in what the woman suspected was a residential area, and she was rolled out of the boot, with Mankgane placing her on his lap.
He began to open the front of her pants, she testified. “I asked him to stop. He didn’t, he kept trying to unzip my pants. I crossed my legs,” she said.
When he placed his hand forcefully into her underwear, she begged him to kill her instead of raping her. “I asked him to stop. I asked him not to rape me. I said: ‘Just kill me, but please don’t rape me.’ He said he would kill me anyway because I had seen his face,” she said.
It was at this point that she began praying loudly.
Eventually, he rolled her back into the boot of the car, driving off at high speed. The car slowed down again, however, as he had a problem with one of the vehicle’s tyres.
He recruited someone outside the car to help him change the tyre. She was even ordered to remain silent as he opened the boot to get the spare wheel and, because she was so petrified, she agreed. He drove off yet again, dumping her, still bound, on the side of the road.
Her stream of tears had loosened the tape on her eyes, and she was able to rub it off. She noticed a mall nearby, the Glen Balad Mall in Kempton Park, and rushed towards it, from where she was taken to the local police station.
Mankgane’s advocate, Michelle Ives, spent much of her initial cross-examination asking details about how the young woman had not fought back during the kidnapping.
“When someone is threatening to kill you, you do what they say,” the complainant answered.
While Ives asked details about the attempted rape – prefacing it with an apology and saying the questions were necessary – she insisted her client would deny the rape happened, or that he was involved in the kidnapping incident as a whole.
She said the young woman’s story was “unbelievable”, later opting to change the word to “improbable”, as she had failed to make any attempts to escape or fight back during the numerous stops on the night of the attack.
The woman responded that she had been frozen in fear. “He can say what he says, but he did assault me … he did all of those things. [When he asked for my address] I gave it to him, so he could throw [my body] closer to where people could find me,” she told the court.
Ives insisted the entire version of events was improbable, including claims that police refused to help the young woman at the Kempton Park police station, telling her to go to a station closer to where she lived.
Earlier in the day, the complainant gave a description of the man, a description she felt fit Mankgane, including protruding shoulders, his facial features and ears.
However, Ives insisted that was a lie, prompting judge Ramarumo Monama to intervene, saying such language was too harsh.
On Tuesday, Tracy Stockhall recalled her horrifying experience in August 2016.
She was also taken from the Montecasino area, where she was allegedly robbed of her valuables by Mankgane, Maswikaneng and Mkuwanazi.
While one of the men tried to strangle her with an object that felt like a wire, Stockhall was able to escape, jumping from the moving vehicle.
On Wednesday, she looked distraught as she listened to her fellow complainant’s harrowing testimony.
The trial continues.