Firefight in Durban CBD

2013-02-21 00:00

TWO taxi owners were shot dead in Durban yesterday when a battle linked to taxi industry friction spilled into the city’s busy morning streets.

At least 31 shots were fired by unknown gunmen in broad daylight near the busy Warwick Junction transport precinct on the edge of the CBD.

Seven other people were injured, including a bystander.

Three people were arrested at the scene.

The crime scene was also at the heart of taxi unrest last year when bosses caused mayhem for days while protesting against what they deemed was unfair attention from Metro police.

Yesterday’s shooting happened at 9.30 am on Khuzimpi Shezi Street, a stone’s throw from Botha Gardens. Police and Metro officers blocked the road while a large crowd gathered at one end.

Two hours afterwards detectives were still trying to piece events together.

When The Witness arrived, a team of crime scene experts were busy gathering forensic evidence.

At the intersection at Dr Pixley KaSeme Street, eight bullet casings could be seen, circled with white chalk.

Police spokesperson Captain Thulani Zwane said all the shots were fired from a 9 mm pistol.

No firearms were recovered, so it was unclear how many weapons were used.

Zwane said they were investigating links to the taxi industry, in particular an association thought to be from the Eastern Cape.

“We are investigating two murder cases as well as seven attempted murders,” Zwane said.

Some of the injured were treated at Addington Hospital.

When The Witness drove past, there was a heavy police presence outside the medical facility.

Zwane was unable to confirm the conditions of the injured, or how many times the dead taxi bosses (aged 52 and 53) were shot.

The bodies, covered and lying on the pavement, were still to be examined for forensics.

Police believe three people were involved in the shooting.

Bafana Mhlongo of the KwaZulu-Natal Transport Alliance said he was unaware of the incident. Two other taxi industry leaders contacted for comment could not be reached.

The MEC for Transport, Community Safety and Liaison, Willies Mchunu, called for calm following the shooting. He said that it was alleged that the shootout may have ensued over a taxi route between Durban and the Eastern Cape.

“The two Eastern Cape-based associations, Border Taxi Association and Ncedo, are believed to have a long history of dispute over this taxi route,” he said.

Mchunu said the shooting happened at an illegally occupied taxi rank. He directed the eThekwini Municipality to shut down the rank. He said the municipality had previously issued the authority to operate in that rank, but subsequently withdrew its authority with the last operation at the rank on December 22 last year.

He said that despite the withdrawal, the associations started operating illegally there yesterday.

Mchunu commended the police for their swift reaction and the arrests. The suspects are expected to appear in court soon.

“We are in contact with the Eastern Cape Department of Transport in trying to resolve this matter.

“Police have also assured us that the taxi violence task team is now in charge of monitoring the situation and we hope the situation will normalise …

“I have also directed the department in KwaZulu-Natal to facilitate an urgent meeting with the affected associations while engaging the Eastern Cape government,” added Mchunu.

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