Woman wounded as taxi violence erupts at rank

A WOMAN was wounded in the hand when police fired rubber bullets to disperse taximen fighting over routes at the Mbombela taxi rank, in Nelspruit, yesterday afternoon.

Members of the Topstar, Matsulu and Kabokweni taxi associations were involved in a fight that saw some drawing their firearms and firing in the air.

The fracas prompted commuters to jump out of the windows of minibus taxis and run for cover.

The police, including a public order police unit, arrived in large numbers and fired rubber bullets to disperse the angry taximen, who threatened everybody.

The wounded woman, 31-year-old Gina Mthethwa, was shot in the hand in the ensuing fracas.

Several windows of vehicles other than minibus taxis were shattered, but it was not clear how that happened since there were conflicting statements.

Some people claimed the windows had been shot at while others claimed the taximen had randomly hurled stones at windows.

A man, who was quickly taken to hospital by ambulance, nearly lost his eye in the incident.

"I can confirm that our members had to use rubber bullets to disperse the angry taximen. But we still have to establish how many people sustained the injuries as investigations continue," Senior Superintendent Sibongile Nkosi said on behalf of Mpumalanga Police Commissioner, Thulani Ntobela.

Mthethwa, of the Msogwaba Trust near Nelspruit, said she was shot in the hand when she ran for cover.

"I own a spaza shop at the taxi rank. I saw people running in all directions and I panicked," she said.

"I heard the sound of gunfire and ran blindly. I got shot in the hand but I don't know how because everything happened so fast."

Commuters were left stranded as all minibus taxis were removed from the taxi rank and replaced with vehicles of police on patrol.

The local taxis transporting workers to places such as KaNyamazane, Daantjie, Msogwaba, Matsulu and Lehawu, had to wait for passengers on street corners.

The three taxi associations were allegedly fighting over long-distance routes, though officials were not immediately available to comment on the matter.