five torched taxis rock peace efforts

EFFORTS to restore peace in the Durban taxi industry have been set back by the torching of five minibus taxis belonging to the NMR Taxi Association in Umlazi.

The association, named after the three sections of Umlazi in which they operate, had been enjoying peace for the first time in weeks when the four vehicles got burnt.

Three taxis were burnt in two incidents that occured almost simultaneously. In one incident, at Ndolweni taxi rank, 16 spent 9mm cartridges were found on the scene.

When Sowetan arrived on the scene terrified onlookers, mainly passengers, were milling around.

Though the incidents have all the hallmarks of a taxi feud, NMR chairperson Mzameni Mthiyane believed the incidents were not taxi-violence related but criminal acts by an "opportunistic gang".

"On Tuesday I received a complaint from a taxi owner who claimed that their vehicles were being stopped by unknown armed people, who were taking all the day's takings and cellphones." he said.

"We opened a case with the police. On Wednesday a passenger was shot and killed when a taxi she was travelling in on the same route was attacked. A driver and his assistant are still in hospital."

Mthiyane said though there were problems the latest incidents have nothing to with the feud.

"I am saying this because in all the incidents, except the Wednesday one, the attackers took cash and cellphones. Rumours say the people doing this are from outside Umlazi. I believe it is true."

Mthiyane said the intervention by transport MEC Willies Mchunu to stop the killings in the association had borne fruit until recently.

"Five people were killed before and after the MEC's intervention, but the situation has calmed down. We will not be detracted from finding a lasting, peaceful solution," Mthiyane said.

"Four men allegedly showed up from nowhere and started firing at the taxis and a group of people nearby. Fortunately no one was injured. As soon as the people ran for safety the taxis were set alight.

"I believe the attacks are related to the ongoing taxi feud in Umlazi. The NMR Taxi Association has experienced problems relating to routes in the past. The MEC has been trying to solve the problem."

Police were investigating three cases of armed robbery opened by taxi drivers.