Fatal turn in taxi fare protest


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INLSA

Police keep watch over people arrested during violent protests at KwaDukuza over taxi fare hikes. The protesters set fire to a policemans car, inset, suspecting that he had injured a child during the protests. Photo: Doctor Ngcobo

Kwadukuza taxi associations are adamant that they will not rescind fare increases which have prompted violent protests in the town this week, claiming the life of a woman on Monday.

Ntombiyenkosi Mabika, 24, was trying to make her way to work when she was shot dead. She is suspected to have been shot by one of several security guards hired to protect the associations’ taxis.

Police Colonel Jay Naicker confirmed that one person had been killed during Monday’s protests, when 155 people were arrested for public violence and arson.

He said a murder case had been opened in connection with Mabika’s death, but no arrests had been made.

Naicker said the police were in the area monitoring the situation.

However, they were unable to protect the property of one of their own, whose car and home were torched by the protesters.

Umhlali Warrant Officer David Nzuza said he rushed home after being alerted that his home was on fire.

Nzuza arrived home to find his car gutted and part of his house, which had been vandalised, on fire.

“These people are accusing me of injuring a child during the protest. There were many police on duty that day (Monday). How can they be sure that I did it? Even if that was so, attacking my family is not the way of dealing with that.

“If I did wrong, why did they not report it at the police station?” he said.

Police said more protesters had been arrested on Tuesday, increasing the number to about 270 people.

The protests started on Monday over taxi fare increases from R4.50 to R7. The protesters said they could not afford the hikes.

Ward councillor Ann McDonnell said the R102 between Shakaskraal and Umhlali had been blockaded by the protesters until early on Tuesday.

“I went to see what was happening, but I was told to leave because it was too dangerous. I understand that the violence in some areas has escalated, and I am so sad to hear that somebody has died from this,” she said.

Bongizwe Mhlongo, of the KwaDukuza Taxi Association, said the association had no intention of decreasing fares. He said the commuters had decided to protest without expressing their concerns to the association.

“When other businesses increase prices for items, you do not see people protesting against it,” he said.

The newly inaugurated KwaDukuza mayor, Ricardo Mthembu, said he was in talks with the association to find a solution. He would meet the association on Wednesday.

The protests have prevented residents from going to work and pupils from getting to school.

KwaDukuza resident Thembelihle Gumede said she could not afford the increased transport costs for her two children, who travelled by taxi to school. She said one had started writing exams, but could not get to school.

“We are not fighting with the taxi owners; we just want them to reduce their prices,” she said. - The Mercury


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