Hijackers strike at dawn

2014-01-30 00:00

A SINGLE shot shattered the peace of an upmarket Pietermaritzburg suburb early yesterday morning, ending the life of a successful, well-known businessman.

Bongani Clement Zondi (52) was setting off for his daily gym work-out when he came under attack.

Hearing the shot just after 5 am, his domestic worker rushed out of the house to see what had happened, and found her employer crawling on the ground, calling out for help. She dashed next door and rang the bell, begging a neighbour to call the police.

Zondi, who owned a fleet of taxis, had been shot in the chest. Despite the efforts of ER24 paramedics, he was declared dead next to the driveway in the yard of his Chase Valley Road home.

Police later found his Toyota Hilux bakkie abandoned in Mpumuza. All that was missing was his cellphone.

His shocked son Andile told The Witness early yesterday that his dad had tried to fight off his attackers. “There are marks on the ground that indicate there was a struggle.

“He was reversing out on his way to gym. He goes to gym every morning. They [his attackers] knew that.”

Inside the yard, groups of men, relatives and work associates, including some of Zondi’s taxi drivers, stood around in solemn groups, more arriving as news of the murder spread.

Emotional scenes played out as close relatives arrived, the news that Zondi was dead hitting hard.

Women covered their faces, sobbing near Zondi’s body, which lay on the grass covered with a foil sheet, his feet protruding, as grim-faced men supported them.

A neighbour who declined to be named said he had heard the shot and then a car leaving Zondi’s home. “We can’t escape [crime]. It’s like a lottery.” He said he had been surprised when the domestic worker rang the bell, asking for help, and he had called Town Hill police station.

Another distraught neighbour, who also asked not to be named, told The Witness Zondi was “such a nice man”. She said she and her husband had been invited to his wedding at Midmar Dam some years ago. “He was a tough man, but so kind to us. My husband was shaking, but he had to go to work. He heard the shot and went to look from the verandah.”

She said Zondi was a “busy man” who worked until 12 am and got up to go to gym at 5 am. “He told us he only gets five hours’ sleep a night.”

The neighbour, wanting to help in some way, said she later took calming medication to the family.

Colonel Jay Naicker said Zondi operated taxis in the Sobantu area.

He said a policeman in the KwaMpumuza area in Plessislaer spotted “an unoccupied suspicious white bakkie” at about 7 am.

He radioed for verification and ownership of the vehicle, and found it belonged to Zondi.

Naicker said the killers had abandoned the vehicle in the area and fled.

“Zondi’s cellphone was taken from the vehicle.”

Police appealed to anyone with information on the murder to contact Detective Warrant Officer Gideon Bouwer of Town Hill Detective Services at 033 845 7794 or 076 592 7164, or Crime Stop at 08600 10111.

Was it random ...

ON their way to work, curious neighbours piqued by the presence of the police, stopped to inquire what was happening at the scene, sometimes causing traffic to back up behind them.

Some recalled that members of the original Five-Minute Gang were nabbed in 2008 just metres away from where Zondi was slain.

They all expressed shock at the shooting.

Khavin Sivenandan said the incident would prompt him to warn his wife to be extra vigilant. “Was it random or was he targeted? We don’t know.”

Joe Voller said he hoped the killer would be caught, while Gerhard Gouws said the murder “fills you with fear”. “If it happened here, it can happen anywhere.”

Or taxi violence?

MEANWHILE, there have been two murders linked to the taxi industry in recent days.

Taxi driver Mbongeni Ngubane (39) was ambushed and shot dead at Georgedale on Saturday night, while police at Taylor’s Halt are investigating the murder of taxi driver Sandile Zuma (24), who was gunned down on Tuesday.

SA National Taxi Council (Santaco) provincial chairperson Boy Zondi said the taxi associations within which Zondi was operating “are quiet, with no problems that are known to us”.

“It’s sad that we lose members like this, but it looks like it was a criminal act that is not related to taxi violence. And it’s early to speculate.”

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