Gun battle at dawn at Durban taxi rank

Published Sep 16, 2015

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Durban - Semi-automatic gunfire shattered the predawn peace in central Durban on Wednesday, leaving three dead, in what appears to have been a fight between taxi factions over the Port Shepstone route.

Initial reports from paramedics said that six people had been killed and three people were injured but it has now been confirmed that three people were killed and three injured.

The shots were fired at the top end of Dr Pixley kaSeme (West) Street, at the Brook Street taxi rank, between 5.45 and 6am.

When the gunfight was over, A male passerby lay dead, as did a security guard from the station. The third victim, also a man, was apparently linked to the fight.

The Daily News team counted about 50 bullet shell casings. There were more in an area the media could not see clearly. Police collected more than 10 guns and belts of ammunition.

As the sounds of gunfire echoed around the CBD and bullets flew, taxi and train commuters dived for cover. Police arrived within minutes and arrested seven men, including a security detail for a taxi boss, and a prominent Durban taxi owner.

The security guard who died worked for Mvimbeni Security which is contracted by the local taxi association to guard its offices at the rank.

When contacted for comment, a man who identified himself as Gumede, an operational manager for the company, said they could not comment at this stage.

Witnesses said a group of men armed with rifles and pistols shot at another group standing on the corner of the taxi rank in Theatre Lane. The men all then ran towards the Berea train station where the shooting continued.

Guards at the cemetery said all hell broke loose with train, bus and taxi commuters running, screaming and taking cover behind anything they could.

Paramedics who rushed to assist the injured described it as “carnage”.

About seven men lay face down and handcuffed on the ground. Another lay in a pool of blood with a semi-automatic gun next to him. Another body was on top of a staircase leading to the stalls on the train station bridge.

The male bystander lay dead at the corner of Theatre Lane and Brook Street, with a parcel lying next to him.

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Police were piecing together the motive of the shooting.

Police spokesman Major Thulani Zwane confirmed that three people had been shot dead. He said three more had been injured.

“We are not sure if the firearms are licensed or unlicensed. There might be more suspects involved. The motive is unknown at this stage,” he said, adding that one suspect allegedly climbed over the cemetery fence and ran away.

Among the dead in the Dr Pixley kaSeme (West) Street shooting on Wednesday was a security guard who worked at the station, a pedestrian and one of the men involved in the shooting.

A witness, a woman trader who sells food at the Port Shepstone taxi rank, said she was setting up her table when the gunfight broke out.

The woman, who asked not to be identified, said that when she arrived at the rank, she saw a group of men standing next to a minibus taxi near the entrance to the Berea train station.

“They usually do that, so there was nothing out of the ordinary. Minutes later there were loud bangs. The Berea station turned into a movie scene. As I was running for cover, a young man walking with a woman fell in front of me. The young woman also fell, but it turned out she had collapsed. I saw the ambulance taking her away after the shooting ceased,” said the woman.

Another witness, who also plies his trade at the station, said there were two groups involved in the gun battle.

“On the ground level there was a group of about seven men and there was also a number of men near the stalls on the first floor of the station bridge. I had just pulled out my trolley preparing to start the day and all hell broke loose.

“I was hiding behind one of the pillars of the station structure and could hear them (the shooters) taunting each other. The security guard was at the top of the staircase when he was hit by a bullet from the ground level. One of the men on the first floor fell. I heard one of his group members shouting to those on the ground “usubulele umf’ethu” (you’ve just killed my brother). The response from the ground was “usulungile” (are you ready for your turn?). Every word uttered was followed by bullets,” said the man.

He pointed at one of the handcuffed men under police guard and said he belonged to a prominent family in the transport industry.

KZN Taxi Alliance secretary Bafana Mhlongo said he had no details of the incident yet. However, he indicated there was an “old” issue between the Port Shepstone and local taxi operators.

“Even MEC Willies Mchunu was aware of the issue with that rank. The (Port Shepstone) office at the rank was closed a long time ago because of certain animosity,” Mhlongo said.

Daily News

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