Metered taxis at war

2011-02-08 00:00

VIOLENT conflicts over passengers among metered taxi operators in Pietermaritzburg are feared after taxi drivers assaulted each other at the weekend.

The development has reportedly led many drivers to carry firearms.

The trouble started when Calvin Naidoo (41), who was employed by Wesley’s Taxis about eight months ago, quarrelled over clients with Metro Taxis’ Saleen Mohammed on Thursday night.

Naidoo said he had picked up a passenger at Crowded House nightclub in Chief Albert Luthuli Road when Mohammed and four other Metro taxi drivers blocked his vehicle.

“They boxed me and prevented me from transporting my client. I slapped Saleen and about eight Metro drivers assaulted me,” he said.

He said that a group of Metro drivers continued to harass him on Friday.

“I had dropped a client in Jesmond Road in Pelham when I was accosted by five Metro vehicles at about 1 am. They followed me to Alexandra police station where they intimidated me in the presence of police officers, who later escorted me home,” said Naidoo.

He said that in the early hours of Saturday morning he drove to pick up a client in Chase Valley.

“When I got there I was stopped by three Metro taxi vehicles. I locked myself inside my vehicle, but they smashed two windows with an iron bar and a baseball bat before assaulting me.

“They stopped when a motorist intervened. By then I was already unconscious and bleeding from head injuries. I was then taken to Northdale Hospital,” said Naidoo.

Naidoo said he was also robbed of a cellphone and R800 in cash during the attack.

“These Metro guys are the law unto themselves. They bully us and when things do not go their way they resort to violence.”

A taxi owner, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of intimidation, also complained about Metro drivers: “Other drivers are now carrying firearms at work in order to protect themselves,” he said.

Metro manager Mansel Govender said his drivers resort to violence because they are fed up with illegal taxis.

“We are engaging lawyers because we cannot take [illegal taxi operations] anymore,” said Govender.

However, the owner of Wesley’s Taxis, who declined to give his name, said his taxis have permits: “They have no right to assault my driver.”

Police spokesperson Warrant Officer Joey Jeevan said three suspects arrested in connection with Naidoo’s assault and robbery were kept in holding cells. She said Naidoo was released on free bail for allegedly assaulting Mohammed.

“Two men were arrested on Sunday in Northdale while a third one handed himself over to the police yesterday morning.

“All of them, including Naidoo, will appear in the Pietermaritzburg court today,” she said.

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