Taxi dispute ends with driver dead

2012-11-17 00:00

SIMMERING tensions between Pietermaritzburg and Howick taxi operators came to a boil yesterday with shots fired at the Masukwana taxi rank in the afternoon rush-hour traffic.

Taxi driver Bhekizitha Dlamini (30), of Mpophomeni, a driver for the Zimeleni taxi association — which operates between Pietermaritzburg and Howick — was killed.

The association’s secretary, Lenard Makhaye, said a dispute over the route arose on Wednesday when a group of Piet­ermaritzburg taxi operators demanded to see him.

Makhaye said that the operators demanded access to the route, which was refused.

“They were alleging that I am the person that doesn’t want to allow them access to the route, but they know very well that we are operating with the permits for that route. We met them on Wednesday and today [yesterday], and we refused to share the route.

“They told us that this was their town and they will operate, whether we like it or not. Just after the meeting, we were told that a white bakkie was blocking the entrance of our taxi rank.

“We reported this at the police station and while there we were told that there was a shooting,” said Makhaye.

A taxi driver who was at the scene, who declined to be named, said that with the bakkie blocking the entrance to the rank, they had used a muddy dirt track to get their taxis out of the facility.

“We parked our taxis near the N3 on-ramp and were loading passengers there when the shooting started.”

Dlamini was stopped by men from the bakkie as he drove his taxi. When he got off the vehicle, he was shot several times and died at the scene.

Nomkhozi Zitha, a street vendor in the area, said she was shocked when she heard the shots being fired.

She said three police officers were at the scene when the shooting happened.

Makhaye said that he had also heard from other taxi drivers that police had been at the scene and had not acted against the shooters.

He had heard that the gunmen had remained in the area for a few minutes after killing Dlamini before leaving.

Police spokesperson Captain Thulani Zwane said a murder case was being investigated. He did not respond to questions about the officers at the scene.

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