Hitmen kill taxi owner in town of racial strife

Canaan Mdletshe

Canaan Mdletshe

The owner of a fleet of taxis, who let his house to two men suspected of killing a shop assistant after kidnapping him, has been shot dead.

Samuel "Mashobane" Khumalo, 51, let his home to Imran Desai and Ashif Mohammed Shaik, the two men suspected of kidnapping S'thembiso Mbokazi.

Mbokazi's body was found in a weighted sack in Jozini Dam, at Pongola, northern Zululand, two weeks after he had disappeared.

The incident has racially divided the African and Indian communities and led to death threats and the burning of property.

Police Inspector Bonginkosi Mkhize said yesterday that Khumalo was gunned down on Tuesday night. He had just parked his taxi at his home when he was ambushed.

"He got out of his taxi to open the gate. As he was walking back to his taxi, an unknown number of people appeared and shot him.

"He sustained two bullet wounds to the head fired at close range and one to the chest and died on the spot, two metres from the taxi.

"Police are not sure if the murder is related to taxi violence or what is happening in the area but we are still investigating. We will get to the bottom of the matter," Mkhize said.

An eyewitness, who asked not to be named because he feared for his life, said he was passing Khumalo's home when the incident happened. He suspected the gunmen were on foot as there was no sound of a getaway vehicle.

"I was coming from the school when I heard the gunshots, with the third following a little later.

"I rushed to see what was happening and there he was, dead.

"I am certain the culprits must have been on foot because there was no car except for a parked truck," he said.

Sowetan has reliably learnt that Khumalo was staying with a new wife after he allegedly beat his previous wife to death in the late 1990s.

He was arrested and convicted for that incident.

Meanwhile, police are maintaining a watchful eye in the area.

Tomorrow Desai and Shaik will be appearing for a bail application and on Saturday Khumalo will be buried.

Police say they are not taking any chances.