i told cops about Taxi hitmen

Tebogo Monama and Sibongile Mashaba

Tebogo Monama and Sibongile Mashaba

A Johannesburg taxi owner has written to Gauteng MEC for safety and security Firoz Cachalia complaining about the reluctance of the police to act against violence in the industry.

Breeze Dlamini, a taxi owner attached to the Faraday Taxi Association's Bree Street branch, claims one man in the association was the root of the taxi war.

"The taxi rank manager wants power and he will get it at any price. He thinks that if he has a misunderstanding with anyone, he has to solve it by opening fake cases against you or hiring hitmen to kill you," Dlamini said.

He said the police were aware that the taxi owner was a law unto himself, but were not doing anything about it.

"He told me that he would never be arrested because he has money and bribes the police."

Dlamini is a state witness in several murder cases against the alleged hitman.

"He knows that I'm a state witness and he's trying to discredit me. He is forcing his taxi drivers to open non-existent cases against me.

"Some of his drivers told me that he had threatened to fire them if they did not cooperate. He forced them to open pointing of firearm cases against me."

In a letter to Cachalia, Dlamini wrote: "During 2007, I have witnessed three taxi drivers being murdered in Johannesburg, and my statement(s) had not been obtained by the SA Police despite me mentioning to the head of the taxi violence unit at Germiston that I have witnessed these murders."

Cachalia's spokesman, Mandla Radebe, confirmed the letter and said they were investigating the matter.

From May last year to date, more than 15 people have been killed and many more injured in Johannesburg taxi violence.

In April, Dlamini was arrested at the Protea magistrate's court where seven taxi bosses were appearing on charges of possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition.

The charges against six of them were withdrawn, while the other owner was sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment, suspended for 10 years, on condition he was not found in possession of any kind of firearm.

Dlamini was arrested because he was wearing a bullet proof vest but was later informed that two taxi drivers had laid charges of pointing firearms against him.

One of the cases in which Dlamini is a state witness is an attempted murder case concerning his brother Mbhekiseni, who was allegedly shot 23 times by the taxi owner's hit squad in the Johannesburg CBD last September. Mbhekiseni is now out of hospital but cannot walk.

Another case is that of Faraday chairman Oupa Kgatitse, who was shot last December and died later.

Also in December, Jabu Lubede, the Bree Street taxi rank chairman, was also murdered.

Christopher Tswai, Dlamini's friend and deputy rank manager, was also allegedly killed by the man on January 19 2007.

l The taxi owner's name is known to Sowetan.