Top taxi wars fighter killed

Mhlaba Memela

Mhlaba Memela

A high-profile KwaZulu-Natal police crime buster responsible for the arrest of key taxi hitmen has been assassinated.

An unidentified man, believed to be one of the attackers, was also killed at the scene.

Superintendent Zethembe Chonco, 40, was shot dead while escorting prisoners from Kranskop to the KwaDukuza magistrate's court when they were ambushed by unknown gunmen.

Chonco's vehicle was following his colleagues' public order policing vehicle transporting the prisoners to court when the car he was in came under gun attack in KwaMaphumulo.

Chonco in recent years had been deployed to serve as the leader of various task teams in the province, mostly dealing with taxi-related violence.

He was the station commissioner of the Kranskop police station. He was killed at 9am yesterday but news of his death was only released late yesterday afternoon.

Yesterday his police colleagues were in shock after hearing of his death.

"It's like being pierced with a spear. We feel pain. We have lost a dedicated policeman who was committed to protecting us all," said police spokesman Vincent Mdunge.

Chonco was shot through the windscreen and he sustained gunshot wounds to his head. He was confirmed dead at the scene.

Inspector Khanyile reportedly sustained serious gunshot wounds to his body and was taken to an undisclosed hospital in a critical condition.

A body, believed to be one of the perpetrators, was found near the scene.

Family members were also devastated by Chonco's death. His brother-in-law Saddam Ntombela said: "My sister collapsed when she heard the news of her husband's death. We rushed her to hospital. They have four young children.

"His killing was senseless. He dedicated his life to saving the lives of others. He was loyal to the SAPS and we cannot believe it."

He said his brother-in-law worked tirelessly to fight crime.

"His family saw little of him. He was so busy travelling all over the country to catch criminals. He was brave enough to arrest all types of people including big taxi bosses and we believe he was killed for this."

Provincial police Commissioner Hamilton Ngidi said his death was a "devastating blow for the fight against crime".

"We have deployed a senior task team to investigate his murder. It is linked to the cases he was involved in and the arrests he made.

"He was one of the strongest, most intelligent and dedicated detectives we have had. It's a huge loss to all of us," he said.

Chonco was also responsible for ending the taxi feud on the North Coast that had been going on for more than 20 years after arresting several taxi bosses for murders.