Taxi drivers end ruthless gang’s rampage

2015-03-15 17:00

A brutal gang that has terrorised residents in Mpumalanga for the past four years has been stopped in its tracks by a furious mob led by local taxi drivers.

Residents say that members of the Wrong Turn gang have tormented the villages and townships around the Badplaas area of Emanzana, Elukwatini and Tjakastad, robbing and stabbing scores of people.

But two weeks ago, the gang murdered two well-known local taxi operators, Mandla Nxumalo (31) and Yanda Sibande (30).

Nxumalo and Sibande’s industry colleagues and other residents in Elukwatini hunted down a trio of Wrong Turn members, cornered them at the local taxi rank and beat them to death – while the police looked on.

Another alleged gangster was lynched a few days later, on March 6. Police have not released any of the dead men’s names.

Residents told City Press this week that the massive crowd ordered policemen and members of the province’s tactical response team to back off.

Mpumalanga police spokesperson Colonel Leonard Hlathi confirmed that police were instructed not to interfere when they arrived at the taxi rank.

“There were about 5?000 community members against the few police officers who responded to the incident,” he said.

“The gang members were already severely assaulted when we arrived, and the crowd did not want us to take the wounded suspects and get them ambulances.

“It’s a matter that needed public order police and our members’ lives could have been in danger if they had insisted [on intervening].”

All that remained of the mob scene this week was an overturned, burnt-out Corsa bakkie that residents said belonged to the Wrong Turn gang. It was torched after the killings.

Taxi operators ordered City Press not to talk to anyone, nor to take photographs.

One driver, who would not give his name, said the mob had already “arrested” the gangsters by the time police officers arrived at the scene.

“We also told the ambulance driver to turn back because they would save [the gangsters’] lives and then the gangsters would come back and terrorise us again. They watched from a distance as we beat them,” the driver said.

The police have charged five alleged Wrong Turn members – Clifford Nkambule (18), Mboniseni Lancelot Shongwe (19), Andile Sibusiso Mashinini (19), Bongani Ntulo Lukhele (30) and Mfanzile Gwayman Nhlabathi (23) – in connection with Nxumalo and Sibande’s deaths.

At the nearby Crossings shopping centre, business owners said they were relieved that the gangsters had received a taste of their own medicine.

They say that since the mob killings, they’ve been able to keep their businesses open until late at night instead of closing at 6pm.

A tavern owner, who did not want to be named, said: “Business has been good over the past two weeks. People are staying longer to drink. In the past, we had to stop calling DJs to perform because when there are many people, these gangs would just snatch beers and money from their hands.”

A resident who was shopping at the centre said people could now use their cellphones while walking around.

“It never happened before. These gang members would snatch groceries from helpless old women,” the shopper said.

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