Parliament - Parliament's police portfolio committee and the South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco) have condemned the murder of 11 people associated with the Ivory Park Taxi Association, based in Gauteng, in an attack by gunmen on the R74 between Colenso and Weenen in KwaZulu-Natal on Saturday night.

Committee chairman Francois Beukman said on Sunday the committee had on numerous occasions highlighted that to deal with crime effectively there was a need to eliminate illegal firearms used to perpetrate these acts.

“While the committee is cognisant that a proper investigation would need to be undertaken to ascertain the firearms utilised in perpetrating these crimes, it is almost certain that illegal firearms were used. These firearms must be removed from our streets to deal effectively with crime,” he said.

The incident was also a further indication that violence in the minibus taxi industry had now reached crisis levels and multi-sectoral intervention strategies should be implemented to effectively deal with the problem, Beukman said.

Sanco national spokesman Jabu Mahlangu called for calm in the wake of the murders, saying "no stone must be left unturned until those responsible for the heinous and ghastly crime are behind bars”. 

Mahlangu urged communities and taxi organisations in the area to assist police track the killers, saying those responsible for were "heartless cowards". “No one will feel safe as long as they are still on the loose and terror lurking in the dark,” he said.

Earlier, South African Police Service (SAPS) national commissioner Lt-Gen Khehla Sitole condemned the senseless killings and said a 72-hour action plan comprised of officers from specialised SAPS units, including crime intelligence, the Directorate for Priority Crimes Investigation (Hawks), detectives, and the special task force had been activated to trace and apprehend those responsible for the killings.

KwaZulu-Natal acting police commissioner Lt-Gen Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi and his management team would oversee the investigation. "We will wait for the investigation to advance before speculating on a motive," Sitole said.

Sitole's spokesman Brigadier Vish Naidoo said preliminary reports indicated that the 11 were among 17 people travelling back to Johannesburg in a minibus taxi after a funeral in KwaZulu-Natal. It was believed that unknown men opened fire on the taxi at about 8pm, fatally wounding 11 people. Four others were critically wounded and were recuperating in hospital, while two escaped unharmed.

"On the R74 road between Colenso and Weenen unknown persons jumped onto the road from the bushes and opened fire at the taxi, Naicker said.

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African News Agency (ANA)