04/04/2018 14:08 SAST | Updated 04/04/2018 14:31 SAST

Number-One Taxify Driver Fears For His Life

Brian Maphosa spoke to HuffPost at a safety summit organised by Taxify, where a partnership with the safety app Namola was announced.

Queenin Masuabi
From L-R: Facilitator Elsabe Booysens, Brian Maphosa (Number-One Driver), Peter Matthaei (Namola CEO), Gareth Taylor (Taxify country manager) and Werner Koekemoer (security specialist) at the Taxify drivers security summit in Johannesburg, April 4, 2018.

Brian Maphosa was voted Taxify's "Number-One Driver" by his peers because he takes pride in his job – but he lives in constant fear. As the breadwinner of his family, this is the only job that allows him to provide for his siblings.

"As the guy who has been involved in a hijacking, I feel so scared all the time. This is the job and the platform [with] I put bread on my family's table," he told HuffPost.

"We have to live with [fear] every day. I have siblings I have to look after, and [through] Taxify I managed to support my little sister and pay for her school."

He says threats from metered-taxi drivers have become a norm.

"We get some kind of threats, but those threats do not scare us – it is like something we live with [all the time]."

"[My sister] calls me every 30 minutes to find out 'Brother, are you safe? I heard the news that they burnt one of the drivers, I heard the news that someone is stabbed the drivers. I am not secure.'"

Read: Murdered Taxify Driver's Family Expecting Visit From Gauteng MECs

He says in some instances, customers also make his job difficult – especially those who do not want to pay for their trips.

"I come across sometimes riders give us problems with not paying. We pick up the rider and sometimes when you end the trip, the person tells you they do not have the money – what can we do? For us; we are too smart to fight with the riders, we just let them go."

The e-hailing service was launched in 2016, and there has been backlash from metered-taxi drivers against both Taxify and its rival, Uber.

There have been a number of incidents in which drivers have been assaulted or killed – most recently, 21-year-old Taxify driver Siyabonga Ngcobo's remains were discovered in Tshwane last month, in the boot of his torched vehicle.

Ngcobo's death was linked to the escalating taxi violence, with witnesses alleging that his car was set alight by metered-taxi drivers.

Taxify summit seeks to make life safer for drivers and users

Taxify on Wednesday launched a partnership with crime-fighting application Namola during its first Taxify driver safety summit in Newtown.

Taxify country manager Gareth Taylor says he wants to ensure the safety of drivers, and one of the ways would be needing more details from customers.

The e-hailing service is in the process of finding a way ensure that people requesting drivers are not perpetrators who actually want to harm them.

"We need authentification of the riders; this could be through having an ID number and having a passport number, or by having a picture," Taylor said.

The e-hailing service admit that this strategy might be a bit tricky – especially if criminals log on using other people's details.

"There are a couple of complications; ways that people can get around it by using fake information. It is very difficult to police this – we are working on a way to find a more accurately authenticate rider identity."

"We want to provide a great service to our clients; unfortunately, there are tsotsis. Criminal elements have now started targeting you guys to steal from you." – Gareth Taylor

The Namola app allows users to share their GPS coordinates, name and nature of the emergency with a 24/7 response call centre, which can verify incident details and connect to emergency medical services and the SAPS.

The partnership will enable Taxify drivers to access the Namola functionality from within the Taxify app.

"We want to provide a great service to our clients; unfortunately there are tsotsis – criminal elements have now started targeting you guys to steal from you, to intimidate you and to make it really difficult for you to do your job properly," Taylor told a group of about 60 drivers at the summit.

"I think it is unacceptable – unacceptable that they are targeting you when you are doing an honest day's work. It is for that reason we wanted to have that conference today, with and for you," he added.

He said Taxify was also trying to bridge the gap between making the cash payment method optional for drivers, while not alienating any customers who do not have access to electronic paying methods.

Taxify has also been working with provincial and local government to find ways to end the violent struggle with metered-taxi drivers.

"This is becoming quite fruitful, and hopefully as a result of that, there will be less violence from metered taxis," he said.

The summit also included anti-hijacking training and self-defence for drivers.