When Charles and Lisa Onyigbuo asked Uber to recommend a driver to join them in their new business, it never occurred to them that the vetted driver would turn out to be an armed robber.
Police have confirmed that “Ian Jordaan”, later identified as Dean Dube, is a suspect in a series of robberies in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, in which the Onyigbuos’ BMW was used and which resulted in nine deaths and a car riddled with bullets.
The couple are part of a new class-action lawsuit set to be launched against the mobile driving service, claiming that Uber failed to properly vet its drivers. However, Uber denies this, saying its verification process “goes far beyond any legal requirement in SA”.
To add to the couple’s woes, Charles claims that when he went to the Uber offices this week, they refused to escalate his complaint to an investigation unless he brought along the police investigating officer.
In January, the Onyigbuos asked Uber to recommend a new driver for their BMW 3 series. When “Ian Jordaan” was suggested, the company recommended that anyone looking to work with a driver visit their place of residence and meet the person beforehand. The Onyigbuos met Jordaan at his home in Kempton Park, and were impressed with what they saw.
Jordaan began working for the couple on January 16. For the first week or so, the couple received their receipts from the Uber app confirming his trips. But by January 28, the invoices had stopped.
When Charles went to visit Jordaan’s home again, he was able to speak to his driver’s landlord, and discovered that he had been using a false identity. The landlord knew him as Dean Dube, and gave the couple a copy of Dube’s Zimbabwean passport for them to see if it was the same person.
That week, the couple met Hawks investigators and were informed their car had been used multiple times by an armed robbery syndicate. However, many members of the gang had met their end in the final heist while trying to rob a cash-in-transit vehicle in Kwanongoma, KwaZulu-Natal.
On February 2 the gang had attacked the vehicle on Hlabasa Road, using explosives to open up the van. A massive shoot-out between police and the suspected robbers left seven robbers and two police officers dead.
KwaZulu-Natal Hawks spokesperson Capt Simphiwe Mhlongo confirmed that Dube was a suspect in the shoot-out, with the same gang linked to a robbery of a Shell garage a few days prior. “We can confirm that Mr Dube’s whereabouts are unknown at this stage . no other arrest has been made.”
When the Onyigbuos visited the Kwanongoma police to identify their vehicle, they were shocked to see what Charles estimated as 20 bullet holes. The couple say they blame Uber for the damage to their vehicle, and that a proper background check on Jordaan should have been conducted.
Uber initially told the Sunday Times it was unaware of the Onyigbuos’ complaint, which the couple say they lodged on February 7 at its Kramerville offices. However, the Sunday Times has seen SMS notifications of Charles’s visits to the offices, on February 7 and March 13, as well as an e-mail asking him to rate the service.
The company did not respond to questions about Jordaan’s vetting process. However, Uber spokesperon Samantha Fuller said: “We are concerned about this incident that was brought to our attention and we are investigating the matter. In cases like these, once an incident is reported, our law enforcement relations team works with police to walk them through how Uber can assist in an investigation.”
Meanwhile, Ulrich Roux Attorneys has confirmed it is representing 13 clients, including the Onyigbuos, in a class-action lawsuit against Uber.