A murder case has been opened with the police after an e-hailing driver who went missing on Saturday was found dead.
Ison Mthombeni was found at a mortuary in Johannesburg with a bullet wound at the back of his head on Monday.
His car was found abandoned at the Golden Highway, near Eldorado Park, earlier that day with a pool of blood on the backseat.
This prompted the Soweto United E-hailing Association (SUEA) to launch a search party which resulted in his body being found at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital mortuary in Diepkloof, Soweto.
Mthombeni, a pastor who stayed in Meredale, south of Johannesburg, hails from Zimbabwe. He has a five-year-old child.
Mthombeni’s friend Bubuya Dube said he was a spiritual person.
“The SUEA organised the search and his car was found with a pool of blood and white substance that looked like brains,” Dube said.
After the gruesome discovery, he reported this on a WhatsApp group with other drivers and the leader of the association called to assist.
“They started searching across the field close to where the car was found. When we went to the SAPS in Eldorado Park to open a missing person’s case, we were directed to Bara forensics after a body had been found. They told us that his body was dumped near a river, which is commonly used for cleansing ceremonies,” he said.
Dube said Mthombeni’s last trip was on Saturday at midnight to a popular casino in Johannesburg’s northern suburbs.
“He was on duty and we suspect that it was an attempted hijacking. This is so barbaric.”
Dube said he was sad to see Mthombeni lose his life in such a senseless manner especially as he was the one who introduced the deceased to the e-hailing industry.
“He was a very spiritual person who loved God and he was a pastor who worshipped at House of Treasures Ministries,” said Dube.
Gauteng police spokesperson Col Dimakatso Nevhuhulwi could only confirm that Mthombeni was reported missing.
Bolt’s regional manager in East and Southern Africa, Takura Malaba, said the company was aware of the incident, confirming that the driver was registered on its platform.
“We are currently investigating this incident internally to confirm if this incident took place on the Bolt platform. We are aware that drivers often drive with multiple apps, and if this incident occurred on a trip on our platform, we will fully cooperate with the SA Police Service’s (SAPS) investigation into this incident, providing any information possible that may lead to the conviction of the perpetrators,” said Malaba.
“This heinous and senseless act disheartens Bolt and it unequivocally condemns any form of violence directed toward ride-hailing drivers. We believe that every person has the right to earn a living and move around without risk of harm, intimidation, coercion or fear of death or injury.
“Crimes against ride-hailing drivers continue to be a national issue of great concern, and the safety of passengers and drivers who use the Bolt platform is of utmost importance to us. Bolt is continuously engaging with national, provincial and local government and SAPS at local and national levels to address this scourge of violence and work together to improve safety for e-hailing drivers in SA,” he said.
Family spokesperson Perseverance Mhlaba said the family needed answers.
“We would like to know what transpired on that day. His mother, father, brothers and sisters are in Zimbabwe and they are in a state of shock.”
Mhlaba said she would miss Mthombeni, describing him as a man of peace.
“Ison was a very humble and kind-hearted person. He was never aggressive. He loved to solve problems in a peaceful way,” she said.
SUEA chairperson Thato Ramaila said he was shaken by the murder, adding e-hailing drivers were always living in fear of being hijacked and killed.
“Mthombeni’s last trip was to a casino. Though we don’t know what happened, the modus operandi is that criminals make a trip request, and once they are in the car, the criminals cancel the trip from the driver’s phone.
“By so doing, they know that the trip will not be recorded. They then shoot and kill the driver and leave with the car,” he said.
Ramaila said e-hailing companies needed to invest in technology that would make it easier for associations to track down drivers who were reported missing.