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Durban - TWO cousins told how they ducked for cover after a bullet shattered their glass front door during a raging gun battle on the streets of Ntuzuma in which five people were injured.
The gun-fight on Monday by members of rival taxi associations left an innocent woman fighting for her life.
Police believe the unidentified 45-year-old woman was hit by a stray bullet in her home – in another street about 400m away from the scene of the shoot-out.
Four others were injured, including two taxi passengers who were also caught in the crossfire. The other two are believed to be representatives of the rival Ntuzuma and Piesang taxi associations.
Police, who confiscated 14 firearms – including R5 rifles – at the scene, said all four were in stable conditions.
The gunfight started at about 7.30am in New Road, Ntuzuma, and raged for about an hour.
The two associations have been involved in a long-running feud over a route that runs along New Road.
Bullet holes could be seen in the walls of some of the houses in the area on Monday, while the glass sliding door of a New Road home was shattered by a stray bullet.
Residents said they feared for their lives because the feud appeared to be intensifying and becoming more violent.
Cousins Purity Mpanza, 23, and Mmeli Sokhela, 22, were at home when they heard the shots at about 7.30am.
Mpanza said they dived for cover when one of the bullets struck the sliding door.
She said she asked her cousin (Sokhela) what was happening but he did not know.
“I was terrified because the gunfire lasted a long time. It was worse because we did not know what was going on,” she said.
“I was afraid I was going to be killed.”
She said the ongoing taxi violence in the area put their lives at risk daily.
Sokhela said he also feared the worst.
“I was about to leave for university when the shots rang out. If I had left the house a few seconds earlier, I could have been killed in the crossfire.”
Sokhela said taxi drivers usually fought over passengers, but this was the first time it had resulted in a gun battle.
Mpanza and Sokhela live less than 400m away from the house in which the unidentified woman was shot.
A driver involved in the shooting said the trouble began when members of his association approached and prevented a rival taxi driver from loading passengers in New Road.
“We had an agreement with them (Piesang) that they would stop using New Road for passengers because they are not allowed to.
“On Monday morning we asked one of their drivers who had stopped to pick up passengers on this road to stop what he was doing and offload the passengers and he refused,” said the driver.
He said they were then “ambushed” by a private security company and that was when the gunfight ensued.
A taxi owner aligned with the Ntuzuma association, said: “It is unfortunate that passengers and bystanders were injured in the incident, but we were trying to defend and protect ourselves.”
Bheki Mnguni, 55, a member of the Piesang association, said the route was still the subject of a legal dispute.
“They understood that nothing has been resolved and we would be operating normally. We were quite shocked when we heard that some of our members had been ambushed,” he said.
He said the Piesang association would be meeting soon to decide on its next step in resolving the route dispute.
Police spokesman, Captain Thulani Zwane, said five cases of attempted murder were being investigated.
“A security guard was injured and so was another from Ntuzuma,” he said.
“Two passengers were also injured while a 45-year-old woman was hit by a stray bullet while at her house. She was taken to hospital.”
“We confiscated 14 firearms and found about 20 R5 rifle cartridges at the scene,” Zwane said.
He said the motive for the shooting was unclear but the matter would be investigated by the Ntuzuma police.
Transport, Community Safety and Liaison MEC, Willies Mchunu, said taxi-related violence was a serious concern and lamented the involvement of security companies in the industry.
“This is very disturbing because innocent people are harmed in the process. SAPS have been deployed in the area to ensure stability,” Mchunu said in a statement.
A member of the private security company said they operated within the law and that its guards had retaliated after being attacked.
He said they had surrendered their weapons to the police.
The company promised to release a statement, but it had not yet been received by the time of publication.
In February, Mchunu vowed to end the feud between the two taxi associations, telling a community meeting in Lindelani that he would call an urgent meeting to resolve the matter in the interest of the commuters.