Five taxi operators convicted of murder for killing commuter ‘like wild animal’
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Pretoria - Five taxi operators from Mpumalanga have been convicted of murder following industry wars which resulted in a commuter dying “like a wild animal”.
The killing was sparked by a dispute over the Gauteng route between the Amersfoort Taxi Association and Thuthukani Taxi Association.
Both were using the same route although Thuthukani believed it had the exclusive right to use it and that Amersfoort had to cease its operations there.
Thabiso Vincent Yende was killed in February 2018 when he and other passengers arrived in a taxi operated by a member of Amersfoort Taxi Association.
The members started to attack the commuters, who retaliated by throwing stones. The rival operators gave chase and in the process drove over Yende’s legs. While he was lying injured in the road, one of the operators stabbed him in the leg.
The five accused – Siphiwe Vilakazi, Mduduzi Mbokane, Bheki Madida, Muzi Mnisi and Sibusiso Ndiniso – all pleaded not guilty to murder.
According to them, Yende was stabbed “by mistake” and they never wanted to harm him. But Acting Judge TV Ratshibvumo, sitting in the
Mpumalanga High Court, said it was clear they had killed him “like a wild animal or a dog”.
He convicted all five on the doctrine of common purpose.
In the opening to his judgment, the judge said the taxi industry is a lucrative business. However, its successes are often marred by the violence that installs and dethrones its managers and directors.
“For an industry that is supposed to be thriving, contributing positively to the economy of the country and giving back to the poor, this is a lamentable and sad situation.
“Like a shadow that stalks its owner wherever he treads, so it was that Amersfoort taxi rank was visited by this shadow of death when violence erupted on the day of the incident,” the judge said.
Stones were thrown by the two groups at each other. The accused and other members of the Thuthukani gave chase in a vehicle.
Yende was hit as he was crossing the street. Witnesses testified that the vehicle then reversed and drove over his legs.
They said one of the accused stabbed Yende on his thigh before the rest of them loaded him into the bakkie and took him to the taxi rank.
At that stage Yende was still alive. At the taxi rank, they pulled him by his legs out of the bakkie, causing his head to hit the ground. One of the accused then shouted “here is that wild animal, we brought it back”.
He then jumped and trampled on Yende while others joined in assaulting him.
Yende died shortly afterwards.
Vilikazi, who worked for Thuthukani as a queue marshal and was stationed at Amersfoort taxi rank, claimed that the “invading group” started throwing stones at them.
He testified that they simply gave chase to protect themselves and to try to catch the rivals “to hear what was going on”.
He disputed that Yende was knocked down or that they drove over his legs. The stab wound he explained as a “mere mistake”.
But the judge rejected this. He said: “These men gave chase to the deceased with the intention to capture him and they did exactly that.
“While under their custody and in the process of capturing him, one of them stabbed him with a knife.”
He said all of them had the same intentions, thus they were all guilty of murder.
They will be sentenced later this month.