Passengers hijack metered taxi

2012-04-12 00:00

A METERED taxi driver recalled how he swerved his car into a sugar cane plantation to escape two clients who turned out to be hijackers.

Khumbulani Duma (30) also wrestled with one of his attackers in a scuffle during which one of them fired a shot, which did not hit him.

Not knowing where he was and having lost his sandals, he then walked until he saw a road sign pointing to Table Mountain.

“I must have walked about 15km,” said Duma who then called a friend on his cell phone.

He had lived in Pietermaritzburg only three weeks, originally coming from Loteni, in the Drakensberg, and having worked in Gauteng.

Duma told The Witness the two men boarded his taxi at Market Square around 8 pm on Tuesday, while he was working a 6 pm to 6 am shift.

They asked him to take them to Tamboville, near Glenwood, in the north of the city.

“There was silence in the car while I was driving them to their destination. Then one started talking about how drunk he was,” Duma said.

When he was about to turn towards Tamboville, the man in front seat took out a thick rope while the other one pointed a gun at him.

They ordered him to keep on driving.

“I was so scared. I was now driving in a narrow road engulfed in sugar cane,” said Duma.

He braked and the taxi swerved into a sugar cane plantation along Bishopstowe Road, which later becomes Main Road, he said.

“I got out of the car and I was fighting with the one man. The other fired a shot and the one I was wrestling with let go of me. That’s how I escaped.”

Then the two fled in his car.

Having lost his shoes in the scuffle, Duma walked with difficulty.

“I walked until I couldn’t walk anymore,” he said.

“I even had to walk on my heels because my feet were aching.”

Hours later, a man was arrested after police chased the taxi — having been alerted by its tracking device.

“During the high-speed chase the occupants lost control and the vehicle went down the embankment and came to a standstill,” said police spokesperson, Joey Jeevan. “Then they fled into the nearby bushes.”

The police K9 unit let their dogs loose to help find and apprehend the fleeing suspects.

The 38-year-old suspect was apprehended and is expected to appear in the Pietermaritzburg Magistrates’ Court soon. The other is still on the loose, said Jeevan.

Yesterday, Duma was still limping as he spoke of the dangers of his job from his flat in central Pietermaritzburg.

“You never know who you have in the car,” he said.

Driving a taxi is his bread and butter at a time when there is high unemployment.

Duma’s boss Sihle Kubheka, who owns City Taxi, said hijackings of metered taxis happen regularly.

In December, thieves stole a taxi and beat up a driver.

Two years ago a driver was killed and was found two days later, he said.

“These are some of the kinds of things that we’re faced with.

“We’re running a business and we’re pleading with the community to work with us because we’re offering a service to our people.”

Kubheka said even though drivers could never be 100% safe, trackers and panic buttons in their vehicles provided some measure of protection.

• gabisile.ngcobo@witness.co.za

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