Three killed in 'taxi hit'

2009-02-19 00:00

Early morning commuters and people waiting for a local doctor to open his surgery fled in terror as unknown gunmen opened fire on three men in Church Street early yesterday morning.

All three died in the incident believed to be linked to the ongoing taxi route conflict in the Pietermaritzburg Long Distance Taxi Association (LDTA).

A police cordon later kept onlookers at a distance, but a large crowd of shocked by-passers stood and watched the scene, as police conducted their forensic investigations.

The bodies of two of the victims lay on the pavement, their shoes off and shirts undone. The other man’s body lay slumped in the bullet-riddled car. Cones marked the places where the .45 mm bullet shells had fallen.

Police spokesman Senior Superintendent Henry Budhram said the motive for the shooting is believed to be related to taxi violence, however the PMB LDTA has distanced itself from the dead men.

Vumani Dlomo (32), Lindela Dongo (41) and Mgabe Gabela (40) died in a hail of bullets when they were attacked by two men while sitting in a Toyota Corolla in Church Street near the taxi rank.

Sources close to the association told The Witness that one of the three men owned a taxi and was trying to force himself into the route. “He has tried several times to bulldoze his way into the business, but the association denied him entry.” A meeting was held with him on Wednesday, but it was postponed to an unspecified date. “I think he was angry about the delay. Rumours are that on Wednesday he vowed to bring his taxi and start working.”

It is believed that he, together with the other two, were parked near the taxi rank with the intention of escorting his taxi when they were shot.

PMB LDTA spokesman Ernest Mbhele could not confirm that the incident was linked to taxi violence. “This happened away from the taxi rank and the three men were not members of our association.”

However, he admitted that the three men had close ties with the taxi industry. “Dongo and Gabela were previously taxi drivers in the association and Dongo’s late brother was also a member of the association. Dlomo has brothers who are members of the association,” he said.

Mbhele denied that one of the men tried to force his way into the association, but he admitted that the industry is plagued with such elements. “There are always incidents of people who want to take over routes and force themselves into the business, and we deal with them all the time, but I cannot say I know anything like that about these three men.” When asked if he knew if any of the three had a taxi, Mbhele said as far as he knew none of them owned a taxi.

KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Transport, Community Safety and Liaison, Bheki Cele, condemned the incident. “We are deeply disturbed by such barbaric killings and strongly condemn them in the strongest possible way.

“The SAPS will conduct an investigation to these killings and those found to be in the wrong will face the full might of the law. Furthermore, our Public Transport Monitoring and Compliance unit and the KZN Taxi Council will convene and try and get more facts that might expedite the arrest of these ruthless perpetrators.”

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