Dispute over mall route blamed for latest taxi bloodbath

KwaZulu-Natal MEC for transport and community safety Mxolisi Kaunda is briefed by SAPS at the scene of the attack that claimed 11 Ivory Park Taxi Association members.
KwaZulu-Natal MEC for transport and community safety Mxolisi Kaunda is briefed by SAPS at the scene of the attack that claimed 11 Ivory Park Taxi Association members.

The recent spate of taxi killings which claimed 15 lives in two weeks are believed to be revenge attacks following a dispute over the Mall of Africa route.

On Monday, a taxi boss belonging to the Alexandra, Randburg, Midrand and Sandton Taxi Association (Armsta) was shot dead while driving out of a relative's house in a marked association vehicle.

His murder came shortly after the massacre of 11 people in KwaZulu-Natal on Saturday linked to the Ivory Park Taxi Association.

The group travelling in a minibus were returning from the burial of the association's member, Nkosi Mthembu, in Greytown.

The attacked minibus was allegedly sprayed with more than 250 bullets near Ladysmith.

A police insider, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they suspected that the recent killings were revenge attacks due to conflicts over the lucrative Mall of Africa route.

"The truce came at a price after more than 10 taxi operators and innocent commuters were killed around Midrand.

"We suspect the recent killings are revenge attacks because we are not aware of any ongoing taxi route disputes," said the source.

Another source, a taxi operator who also spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the attack on their members in Ivory Park was related to taxi route conflicts around Midrand.

In September, two rival Alexandra taxi associations signed a peace deal despite not agreeing on causes of disputes, including the Mall of Africa route operations.

The Alexandra Taxi Association (ATA) and Armsta had been embroiled in violent conflicts over routes.

Gauteng police spokesman Colonel Lungelo Dlamini said: "Nobody has been arrested; we're busy with investigations following some several leads but we appeal to members of the public with information to come forward."

Police watch over taxi users as they arrive for shopping at the Mall of Africa in Midrand.
Police watch over taxi users as they arrive for shopping at the Mall of Africa in Midrand.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

Dlamini said police "may only confirm the motive for these attacks/killings through facts and evidence although a possibility exists they may be linked to taxi disputes.

"A team of detectives dealing with taxi violence is investigating these cases, as the victims are either taxi drivers or taxi owners associated with one or other associations."

Some taxi operators, however, slammed the Gauteng government for delaying the implementation of resolutions aimed at resolving taxi conflicts which often lead to violence and loss of life.

Resolutions taken at a 2016 Taxi Summit and recommendations by the Gauteng legislature's ad-hoc committee set up to resolve taxi violence were apparently gathering dust.

The legislature report, released in November 2016, recommended that the provincial department of transport should facilitate an independent audit of routes in the province.

It also recommended that the department should further consider establishing an Independent Dispute Resolution Committee to resolve conflicts pertaining to taxi operations, routes and operating licences.

The National Taxi Alliance (NTA) said these solutions which would have dealt and addressed the root causes of taxi violence were just waiting to be implemented.

"These resolutions were made in [the] presence of the premier of Gauteng and MEC for transport where we said we need a panel of retired judges to look into the violence of the taxi industry..." NTA spokesman Theo Malele said.

Mafika Mgcina, the chairman of the legislature portfolio committee for roads and transport, said the report was still work in progress.

"Next week we will be meeting with all the stakeholders. It is unacceptable that five or six people die in a week and nobody gets arrested," he said.

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