Cops shoot commuters during taxi riot

Mhlaba Memela

Mhlaba Memela

Police used rubber bullets and pepper spray to disperse an angry group of more than 300 protesting commuters at Peacetown in Ladysmith, northern KwaZulu-Natal.

The commuters were fuming after taxi operators blocked the entrance of the Brake Throw Investment (BTI) bus company depot in a bid to stop buses transporting locals yesterday.

A group of disgruntled taxi operators were allegedly aggrieved over the low bus fare.

Taxi operators complained that buses charged R6,50 in the morning and dropped the fare to R5,50 during the day while taxis charged R8.

Klipriver Taxi Association chairman, Bhekuyise Masondo, said their members are "sick and tired" of losing out to bus companies.

"Buses are trying to compete with the taxis while our fare is standard. We have been raising our concerns with the bus company for a long time but they won't listen," Masondo said.

Commuter Xolani Shabalala said the taxi owners' actions had inconvenienced them but what the police did was not necessary.

"There was no need to shoot at us. People were worried that they might lose their jobs," he said.

Police captain Charmaine Struwig said the taxi and bus company leaders met yesterday and opted for an amicable resolution. The taxis moved from the depot entrance and allowed buses to continue operating.

"But commuters did not want to accept the fact that they were inconvenienced going to work.

"The enraged commuters threw stones at the police and they were left with no option but to retaliate with rubber bullets," Struwig said.

Police will maintain a strong presence in the area for the next few days.