Court hears how Uber driver was called to KwaMakhuta by a 'friend' and then killed

By Lyse Comins Time of article published Jul 3, 2020

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Durban - A man who allegedly hijacked and killed an Uber taxi driver knew his victim well and exploited their relationship to lure him to KwaMakhutha before committing the crime.

This emerged during the bail application of Sboniso Mseleku, 24, Erasmu Nhasengu and a 17-year-old, who cannot be named because he is a minor, in the uMlazi Magistrate’s Court yesterday.

The minor, who appeared in court with his co-accused, abandoned his bail application after his guardian told the court that it would not be safe for him to be released. 

The three men, who are friends, are facing charges of hijacking and murder after Mseleku allegedly called Uber driver Nduduzo Khumalo, 24, on June 3, purportedly to use his taxi service.

Testifying for the State in opposition to the bail application, investigating officer “MJ” Khuzwayo said Mseleku and Nhasengu, allegedly an undocumented immigrant from Mozambique, were a flight risk and that their lives would be in danger if they were released because the community had already attacked Nhasengu before his arrest.

Khuzwayo said Khumalo had been contacted by Mseleku who “knew him very well” because they had grown up and gone to school together.

“He was telephonically contacted by the person who knew him very well requesting him to take him to a place, and that is when they robbed him of the vehicle. They tied his hands and feet and loaded the deceased into the back of the vehicle he was driving,” he said.

“They drove the car to KwaMakhutha where they crossed the river, and that’s where they took the deceased into the bushes and he was stabbed to death,” Khuzwayo said.

He added that the family and community members had searched for the missing driver and eventually found the abandoned vehicle and his body on June 6.

“Some belongings of the deceased - his driving licence, his ID and his small bag - were found in possession of applicant number 3 (Nhasengu) in his house, and that led to him being assaulted because the deceased had not yet been found at that time,” Khuzwayo said.

Khuzwayo said Mseleku had fled from his home when the police were looking for him, and he had only been arrested when his uncle handed him over to them. He said Nhasengu did not have documents.

“It has become a trend with Uber drivers that once they rob them of the vehicle they are killed. The anger of the community was rising because of what happened to the other drivers, and it is not safe for any of them (the accused) to be outside. It’s a high priority case that everybody wants to know what’s happening, not only the media but the community at large because everybody is affected,” he said.

Mseleku had earlier told the court that he was a breadwinner for his children, and his mother. He said they would not have sufficient income without the R2500 he earned from renting out a mobile kitchen.

Nhasengu said he would move to an alternative address, but he said he had problems with his memory after being assaulted and could not recall the place where he would live nor the name of the firm he worked for.

Magistrate Asheena Bacharam denied bail, saying the applicants had not furnished the court with proof of exceptional circumstances that would warrant it being granted.

“Uber is means of transport used throughout the world and it is difficult to comprehend that in uMlazi and Durban it is dangerous to be employed as a driver, because it’s not the first incident. There is outrage from the community and outrage from the family. The concern of the court is even if I do consider the release of the accused, their lives are going to be in danger because of the outrage of the community,” she said.

The accused were remanded and ordered to appear in court later this month. The minor accused was remanded to a place of safety.

The Mercury

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