Durban - A taxi assassination bid with assault rifles on Durban’s N2 placed hundreds of peak-hour motorists at risk in a second industry hit in three days.
The execution bid happened in the north-bound rush hour near the Ultra City on Queen Nandi Drive on Thursday morning, with two gunmen firing from behind using an AK47 and R-5 rifle at a taxi owner, and his wife in the seat next to him.
Eunice Mkhwanazi was shot dead and her husband, Inanda Taxi Association member Nathi Mkhwanazi, airlifted to hospital after paramedics worked strenuously to stabilise him.
Ructions in the association have been blamed for the shooting. Transport, Community Safety and Liaison MEC Willies Mchunu said on Thursday that this violence, and another killing on the KwaMashu Highway on Tuesday “come as a direct result of the association being in conflict with itself. They are definitely linked.”
The MEC said the attack stemmed from the use of money without accountability by the group’s top members.
“It’s a very vexing issue for these members. They see that money is collected but it is not accounted for. This leads to fighting and frustration.”
He said the department would have to look at the association’s financial accounting systems and bookkeeping records.
“We only become aware of the severity of the issue when we have instances like this. We need to find the extent of the problem, and that is why we need to start with the accounting system.”
Despite repeated attempts since Tuesday, the association’s chairman, Vusi Sosibo, could not be reached for comment.
But Sifiso Mthethwa, chairman of the Greater Northern Region Taxi Association – the parent group of the organisation – said they had “launched interventions” to try and settle the trouble within the group.
Mkhwanazi and his wife had been driving from Clare Estate when they were caught in a hail of bullets fired by men in another vehicle. The killers’ vehicle, believed to be a silver Mercedes Benz, was behind the couple when they opened fire.
“The manhunt is on and our taxi violence task team is investigating the matter,” said a policeman at the scene.
On Tuesday the vice-chairman of the same association was gunned down while driving to Durban with his wife on the KwaMashu Highway in Besters – also in peak morning traffic. Falakhe Maphumulo died after his vehicle was riddled with bullets.
His wife, shot in the neck and chest in the attack involving seven gunmen who emerged from bushes at the side of the road, is in hospital. Her relatives asked that she not be identified as they feared for her safety.
Provincial police spokesman Colonel Jay Naicker confirmed that two unknown men sped off along the N2 freeway on Thursday.
Netcare911 spokesman, Chris Botha, said Mkhwanazi “was placed on a ventilator and immobilised on a trauma board. They airlifted him to a Durban hospital”.
SA National Taxi Council (Santaco) provincial deputy chairman, Bheki Mbambo, said on Thursday that the incidents had shocked the industry.
“It’s so sad. In the incident on Tuesday the woman survived and her husband died. And in this one it was the woman who died and her husband who lived through it. He’s in a critical condition. It’s really shocking,” he told the Daily News.
Motorists took to social media network Twitter to vent their fear and frustration.
Tweeting under the name Breathalyser Guy, one user said: “Oh my goodness! If we’re not getting crashed into, we are dodging bullets on the (N2).”
Another named Cazanne’Z said: “This is utter insanity!!! What is our country coming to??? #disbelief.”
Thandolwethu Tsekiso tweeted: “N2 looking like they (are) shooting a Bonnie and Clyde movie!! Sooo many police.”
A senior researcher at the Institute of Security Studies, Dr Johan Burger, said the reasons for the attack were not as shocking as its brazenness.
“It shows that there is very little fear of the courts, police and justice system. They don’t care if they are identified,” he said.
“They will be looking over their shoulders and that’s not easy to live with.”