Cape Town - Nyanga bordered on anarchy on Monday morning as seven buses were set alight by suspected rogue taxi drivers.
This came as a large-scale, violent service delivery protest gripped the area, stranding commuters as the township was effectively shut down.
Eleven bus drivers were injured when angry crowds ripped them from their vehicles and beat them up in the streets.
Metro police came under live gunfire on Monday while protecting bus passengers who came under attack.
A taxi driver was shot dead, police said.
The 39-year-old man from Zwelitsha was apparently shot while on his way to work, said Captain Frederick van Wyk.
Witnesses heard gun shots at around 6.15am.
Van Wyk said the man was apparently robbed of his firearm. The motive for the shooting was unknown. No arrests had been made.
Golden Arrow spokeswoman Bronwen Dyke said seven buses were torched during on Monday morning’s riots and four damaged.
At about 4am, bus drivers called the operating centre saying they were worried because there were no taxis running in the area, “which is really unusual”.
Two hours later, drivers arrived at the Nyanga bus terminus to find a crowd of angry taxi drivers waiting for them.
“Things started to get a bit heavy - there were police present but we’ve been told they just watched as the crowd targeted two buses,” Dyke said.
They pulled the drivers out of the buses, beating them up before petrol-bombing the vehicles.
“The violence then started to spread.”
Buses were burnt and stoned as rioters moved through the area, bringing traffic to a standstill.
Attacks were reported on Eisleben and Govan Mbeki roads, where four buses were set alight.
Police were urgently trying to hunt down a Toyota HiAce, allegedly carrying a band of arsonists responsible for the attacks.
Motorists on the N2 told the Cape Argus that a small group of law enforcement officers were overwhelmingly outnumbered by stone-throwers, but the officers somehow managed to prevent motorists from coming under heavier attack.
Delivery vans with smashed windscreens were seen near Govan Mbeki, and police in the area tried to seal off roads before more vehicles were hit.
The live rounds were fired at metro police officers and they fired rubber bullets in defence.
Dyke said all 11 drivers were assaulted on Monday morning but most sustained minor injuries.
“None of our passengers at this stage were injured.”
The bus operator has stopped running services in the area, instead creating makeshift terminuses on the N7 and at the Manenberg police station to try to serve stranded commuters.
While Dyke could not confirm that taxi drivers were behind the riots, she said: “All the information we have at the moment points to this being the case.”
The bus operator was set to meet with authorities to discuss safety concerns.
As it stands, services in the area would not resume until Golden Arrow got assurance from police and law enforcement that staff and passengers would be protected from further riots.
City safety and security director Richard Bosman said the situation was under control by 10am but Nyanga was still a no-go area.
Police reported that there was also stone-throwing at the taxi rank in Khayelitsha’s Site C.
“Commuters and road users are asked to refrain from these areas and make use of alternative roads and transportation.”
The provincial Transport Department has condemned the attacks carried out on Golden Arrow buses.
MEC Donald Grant said: “The perpetrators of these very serious crimes must be made to face the full might of the law.
“We will support all efforts to ensure that this happens and that these criminals are brought to book for their crimes.
“Their acts have not only interrupted the provision of reliable public transport to the hundreds of thousands that use buses daily in and around the city, but have also threatened the safety of commuters.”
Cape Argus and Sapa