Taxi hitman's reign of terror brought to an end

A Cape Town taxi hitman was sentenced to more than 80 years in prison.
A Cape Town taxi hitman was sentenced to more than 80 years in prison.
Image: 123RF/123RF Premium

The murder spree that was dubbed Cape Town's taxi war just got a face and a name after taxi hitman Phindile Velem was sentenced to two life sentences in the Western Cape High Court.

In 2018 Velem killed Nkosithandile Pango and Maliphakame Mgxwalisa at the height of feuds between rival taxi associations including the Cape Amalgamated Taxi Association (CATA) and Congress of Democratic Taxi Associations (Codeta) and Hout Bay Taxi Association.

In what was dubbed a taxi war that led to dozens of deaths when sporadic shootings occurred at taxi ranks across the city, the fight was reportedly about disputed taxi routes and access to customers.

In April last year, the fighting culminated in the killing of four people in a shootout in Hout Bay.

Four people have been shot dead and two others have been injured in a gun battle that saw shots being fired early on April 1 2019 in Hout Bay in Cape Town. The shootout is believed to revolve around a disputed taxi route in the area. Subscribe to TimesLIVE here:

According to the Western Cape police management, Velem's heavy sentence of 85 years' direct imprisonment "will send a stern warning that crime does not pay".

"The Western Cape SAPS management has applauded the sterling work done by both the prosecution and detection teams," said spokesperson Capt FC van Wyk.

"Velem was charged with two counts of murder, one count of attempted murder, one count of robbery with aggravating circumstances and various offences relating to contraventions of the Firearms Control Act, 60 of 2000 ("the Firearms Control Act"), including the possession of a semi-automatic firearm and ammunition," he said.

The court found him guilty on all of the offences except for the robbery charge for which he was acquitted.

"These offences were committed against the background of taxi feuds over the protection of taxi routes and money disputes," said Van Wyk.

On the evening of Thursday February 22 2018 Magxwalisa (one of the murder victims) was waiting outside an OK Mini Market store in Main Road, Hout Bay, with taxi owner and Hout Bay Taxi Association member Themba Liwani where Liwani was waiting to transport the store's staff members home.

While the two were talking Velem approached them and shot Magxwalisa, who sustained a fatal wound in his lower back.

Velem then chased Liwani into the store where he shot him three times. Liwani survived the shooting.

But Velem's job was not done. On September 13 2018, he and another suspect killed Pango near a store in Main Road, Delft, after chasing him down and shooting him multiple times.

On November 3 2018 police ended the 43-year-old's reign of terror when they found him in Kayamandi, Stellenbosch, in possession of a 9mm Parabellum pistol and a FEG Luger M80 semi-automatic pistol with several rounds of ammunition.

Investigating officer Lt-Col Julian Tarentaal from the Provincial Organised Taxi Violence Unit, in front of the Western Cape High Court.
Investigating officer Lt-Col Julian Tarentaal from the Provincial Organised Taxi Violence Unit, in front of the Western Cape High Court. 
Image: Captain Piet Smit/SAPS

"In addition to the life imprisonment sentences, the accused was sentenced as follows: for the attempted murder of Themba Liwani he was sentenced to eight years' direct imprisonment; for two accounts for the possession of a firearm without a licence, permit or authorisation, he was sentenced to three years' direct imprisonment on each account; for the three accounts for the unlawful possession of ammunition, he was sentenced to 18 months' direct imprisonment on each account; for the unlawful possession of a semi-automatic firearm, he was sentenced to 15 years' direct imprisonment," said Van Wyk.      

"The accused is deemed unfit to possess a firearm in accordance with the provisions of section 103(1) of the Firearms Controls Act 60 of 2000," he said.

But, his sentencing this week was not the last crack of the whip by the law against Velem.

On April 8 he is scheduled to appear in the Bellville magistrate's court for murder and two attempted murder charges relating to the murder of a CATA member at the Bellville Taxi Rank, according to Van Wyk. 

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