taxi rank chaos

Sne Masuku

Sne Masuku

Chaos broke out at a taxi rank near Durban's busy Warwick Triangle yesterday during a gunfight that left two taxi drivers wounded. A taxi was set alight and several others damaged.

Commuters ran for cover as shots rang out. The injured were taxi drivers belonging to the Claremont Taxi Association. They are in a critical condition in hospital. Police are now patrolling the area. No arrests have been made.

The incident happened shortly after 5am when a group of gunmen allegedly fired shots at a taxi driver from the Claremont Taxi Association. He was struck in the head.

Other attackers went on the rampage and started stoning other taxis belonging to the same association. "They then opened fire on another driver, hitting him three times in the abdomen," said police spokesman Vincent Mdunge.

Mdunge said police would patrol the area and that the decision on whether operations at the rank must be suspended was up to the provincial transport department.

The shooting appears to be related to last month's incident where four people, including a driver from the Claremont Taxi Association, were shot and wounded during a dispute between taxi associations.

At the time the Durban Liner Taxi Association, the Pinetown Taxi Association, the South Beach Taxi Association and the Chesterville Taxi Association arrived at the Claremont rank with the intention of taking it over. Several people were assaulted and robbed. Passengers were forced off taxis.

The warring associations met and agreed to work in harmony while awaiting a decision from the provincial transport department who has the right to allocate passengers and routes.

Gcina Nyakatha of the Claremont Taxi Association said they were shocked by what happened.

"We are aware of the people involved in this, and these are the kind of people that are like rotten potatoes in the taxi industry," he said.

Nyakatha said his association had no intention of shutting down its 700-fleet taxi operation. "There are thousands of commuters who would be left stranded. We appeal to police to take steps to end the violence."

KwaZulu-Natal Transport Alliance chairman Eugene Hadebe condemned the shootings, saying violence in the taxi industry has been perpetrated by government involvement in the regulation of taxi routes.