Durban commuters say they travel in fear as violence between rival taxi associations escalates
DURBAN – “TO RIDE a taxi in the evening is a nightmare. Your life is at risk, and you pray and hope that your taxi won’t be hit by a blaze of bullets.”
This was how a resident from the Umzinyathi area, in Inanda, described how commuters were feeling amid the ongoing taxi violence in the area.
Last Friday, five female passengers were injured when gunmen opened fire on a taxi full of commuters.
According to the police, a taxi with passengers was travelling from Bridge City in KwaMashu to Umzinyathi in the evening when the driver noticed another taxi following him.
When the taxi reached the Umzinyathi area, said the police, occupants of the second vehicle opened fire on it.
“The driver fled from the scene, and when he returned to the vehicle, he realised that five female passengers were wounded. The injured were conveyed to local health facilities to receive medical attention,” said KwaZulu-Natal police spokesperson Brigadier Jay Naicker
Naicker said police officers who were deployed in the area heard the gunshots and responded immediately. He said the gunmen fled the scene, pursued by police.
He said the suspects opened fire at the police officers as they were fleeing and there was an exchange of gunfire.
“They eventually lost control of their vehicle at Emachobeni and the vehicle overturned into a ditch. Three hitmen died on the scene as a result of gunshot wounds to the body. It is suspected that others may have fled the scene after the vehicle came to a standstill,” Naicker said.
He said police recovered five firearms at the scene including a rifle and shotgun.
“Cases of attempted murder and inquest dockets have been registered for further investigation.”
The community of Umzinyathi called on the acting provincial MEC of Transport, Community Safety and Liaison, Kwazi Mshengu, to resolve the ongoing taxi violence in the area urgently.
Resident Benson Maphalala said the taxi violence had led to fear among commuters.
As most of the incidents happened in the evening, there should be increased police visibility as the area was already a hot spot for taxi violence, he said.
“For some of us who knock off at work a little late, it is scary to take a taxi home. These people don’t care even if the taxi is full of people or not. They just open fire and end up injuring innocent people,” said Maphalala, who believed the police, taxi associations and the department were not doing enough.
“Many innocent people have died in this area due to this. We need the taxi industry for transportation purposes. However, they must deal with their war alone, and stop involving us as commuters,” he said.
Community leader Xolani Ngcobo said he had written to the provincial transport department and the police ministry, seeking assistance on the matter.
“It’s too much, we can’t take this any more. We need serious help. During the day, there are armed private security officers in every rank like it’s a banana republic. This issue is known to the provincial department, and even Ntuli (the late former KZN MEC for transport, community safety and liaison) was aware of this,” said Ngcobo.
Mshengu said there was still a lot of work to be done to bring stability and peace to the taxi industry.
“The incident really shocked us as this also ends up harming the commuters. As the department, we will continue to deploy police officers as means of increasing visibility, especially on the Umzinyathi route,” he said.
He said more engagement was also needed with the taxi industry in order to come up with firm solutions.