Toll rises to nine as six more are shot

Canaan Mdletshe

Canaan Mdletshe

Police expect to make arrests following the deaths of six people during a full-scale taxi war on the Kranskop main road outside KwaDukuza last week.

The killings last week brought to nine the number of deaths due to the taxi carnage in just two weeks.

Two taxi owners, Mlandeni Nxele and Khayelihle Nxumalo, as well as passengers Mtholeni Mngomezulu, Nkosinathi Dlimini, Siyabonga Zondi and Mbuzo Maziya were shot on the side of the road in the attack.

Nxele and Nxumalo were members of the Kranskop Taxi Association, and their killings came only days after Thembi Mgenge and Cameron Shamerel were gunned down during a shoot-out between private security companies aligned to taxi associations.

A third person, Brian Khoza, was killed by a sniper on Monday.

Dean Thiart, VIP protections director, described the situation as "resembling a Wild West movie".

"My guard, Khoza was shot by a sniper who was on the roof of a shop. It's too terrible. People just shoot randomly."

A long-standing dispute over routes between two rival taxi associations, KwaDukuza and Maphumulo, has been going on for more than 15 years. Both parties have failed to agree on who has the right to operate between KwaDukuza, Maphumulo and Kranskop.

Eugene Radebe, chairman of the KwaZulu-Natal Taxi Alliance, blamed the provincial department of transport for failing to deal with the problem of permits and routes.

Bheki Cele, MEC for transport, community safety and liaison condemned the killings. He said members of the serious and violent crime unit were investigating.

"Police are investigating all possible leads, be it taxi violence or any other to ensure justice prevails," said Cele.

"Police officials are there to protect communities in any given situation. We are a democratic government, but nobody is above the law. Brutal killings should be condemned and agents of the state will continue defending the weak."

Khanyo Dlamini, Nkosinathi Dlamini's sister, said her brother was not involved in the taxi business, but was a close friend with the two taxi owners. She described the situation as very tense in Kranskop.

"People are scared and when you board a taxi, you don't know what will happen to you.

"But we have no choice. We have to use taxis because we don't have any other means of transport," she said.

"Yesterday, very few taxis were available and the situation was very tense."

She said a memorial service had been planned for Thursday as well as a vigil the next night.

"We hope police will monitor the situation, we can't have a night vigil without their presence," she said.

Police spokesman, Senior Superintendent Phindile Hadebe said arrests were imminent.

"We also have beefed up our presence in and around the area to make sure nothing happens," she said.