Hooded hitmen lie in wait for taxi

2009-05-21 00:00

HITMEN in hooded jackets ambushed a minibus taxi carrying elderly people on their way to a pension pay-point on the R603 near Mid-Illovo yesterday morning, killing the driver and injuring two passengers.

Taxi violence is believed to be the motive for the well orchestrated murder of Madoda Nzimande (33), but police are also exploring other possibilities.

Before the attack, a white Citi Golf allegedly stopped at the Mid-Illovo T-junction and dropped off two men wearing hooded jackets covering half of their faces.

Farm workers on their way to a working site witnessed the drop-off. “We were in the middle of a sugar cane plantation — all women — and suddenly a tinted car drops off suspicious men. We became scared, and picked up our pace as they followed us.”

Their fears were allayed when the two men stopped after a few metres, but the women were still frightened.

“We doubled across the main road again on to the other side and we could see the two men were still hanging around the junction. All of a sudden we heard gun shots, and we ran into the cane field.”

Nzimande was transporting passengers from uMbumbulu area to a pension pay-point in Mid-Illovo when he was stopped by a hail of bullets. He had turned on to the Mid-Illovo road when two men jumped in front of the taxi and opened fire. Bullets went through the windscreen and hit Nzimande in the upper body. Two passengers who were sitting in the front seat were also injured. It is alleged that the suspects ran away from the scene on foot but were later picked up by the Golf.

Another witness said he saw the Golf with three occupants a kilometre away from the crime scene.

According to Netcare 911 spokesman Chris Botha, the injured passengers are in a critical condition. A motorist in a private vehicle was taking the injured patients to hospital when a 911 ambulance came by and took them instead.

“Both patients had sustained critical gun shot wounds and after paramedics stabilised them, they were transported to the Prince Mshiyeni hospital for further treatment,” said Botha.

The crime scene where Nzimande’s body lay covered with foil in front of the taxi was cordoned off with police tape. One lane of the road was closed and several SA Police Service and Durban Metro vehicles were parked near the taxi. A helicopter was circling the area in search of the suspects.

During the shooting the taxi went off the road and stopped on the side.

Nearby, Nzimande’s family members stood comforting one another while forensic detectives combed the scene for evidence.

Nzimande’s aunt, Nonhlanhla Nzimande, was overcome with grief as she saw her nephew’s body.

“Why did they kill him, what was the reason?”

She said that as far as she knew her nephew had no enemies.

The farmworkers told The Witness that they are scared to go back to work in the cane fields until the suspects are found.

Police spokesman Senior Superintendent Henry Budhram said police are following leads, and are appealing for information about the identity of the perpetrators, which can be given to Captain Jabulani Dlamini at 082 418 2159 or 031 781 1710.

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