Fear as taxi killings case is postponed

2013-10-25 00:00

THE ongoing taxi violence in the Kwadukuza Municipality area, including outside retail hubs in Ballito, has created a climate of distrust and fear.

The KwaDukuza Taxi Association (KTA), based in Stanger ,and the Dolphin Coast Taxi Association (DCTA), based in Umhlali, have since the beginning of the year been involved in several violent altercations.

Three people have been killed and several wounded.

However, both associations are blaming each other, claiming they acted in self-defence.

The latest incident on October 17 in the Esondweni area saw KwaDukuza taxi boss Dennis Mhlongo and his driver Khulekani Mdletshe killed.

Three men, bodyguards Mthozini Mathenjwa and Mbekikhosi Luthuli, and taxi owner Justice Mthembu, all belonging to the DCTA, handed themselves in to the Prospecton-based SAPS Taxi Violence Unit hours later. They appeared before the KwaDukuza Magistrate’s Court on Monday under heavy police guard facing a litany of charges including murder. They have since been joined by another Dolphin Coast taxi owner, Dumisani Skhakhana.

The matter was heard again yesterday, but postponed to October 30 for a bail application that the state is expected to oppose.

DCTA spokesperson Mduduzi Tony said they have told their members to stay away from the court in order to “avoid a scene”.

“The people from Stanger are troubling us and attacking us. They act like bosses of the road and poach our routes, which are clearly defined. I am not certain if peace will be found as negotiations keep on failing. We are always expected to make all the compromises,” said Tony.

He said at the time of the shooting their members and their bodyguards were monitoring a bus stop when they were “attacked”.

Mbongizwe Mhlongo, deputy chairperson of the KwaDukuza Taxi Association, said their members will continue to do their routes and will not retaliate.

“We have no issues with our neighbouring associations, however, the Dolphin Coast is behind the latest attack. Dennis [Mhlongo] was executed by their members. We want the justice system to take its course.”

Defence lawyer Yolanda Gielink, representing three of the accused, said the prosecution informed the court that a new judge will be appointed.

“We were informed in court by the prosecution that an independent magistrate from outside of the judicial cluster will be sourced to preside over the case. We are also motivating for the proceedings to be moved to Durban over safety concerns,” said Gielink.

State prosecutor Vincent Mtambo confirmed the case being postponed, but would not confirm if a new judge would be appointed, stating this is not the responsibility of the NPA.

Colonel Jay Naicker said it is likely that armed security would be present in the vicinity of the court as it is the taxi industry’s right to have security and bodyguards.

On March 19 an informal taxi rank outside the upmarket Lifestyle Centre in Ballito became a taxi war zone with a speculated 30 to 100 rounds of high calibre ammunition being fired, in what the local police described as a “turf war” between the Dolphin Coast and the KwaDukuza taxi associations.

There was a second shooting on April 18 at the Boulevard Centre in Ballito that resulted in local barman Sam Haisa being killed by a stray bullet.

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