In the wake of more killings in the minibus taxi industry, taxi bosses believe as long as law enforcement officers still have a vested interest in the industry, there won’t be an end to the scourge.
Twelve minibus taxi industry members were killed last weekend while returning to Johannesburg from a funeral in KwaZulu-Natal.
The taxi in which they were travelling was ambushed by gunmen along the R74 road between Colenso and Weenen.
The taxi industry believes the lack of arrests and prosecution of those behind the spate of killings undermines policing and law and order, adding that the perceived involvement of police officers and other law enforcement officers further compromises fair investigations into these crimes.
They base their allegations on the high number of cases of taxi owners and drivers whose murders had not resulted in any arrests and successful prosecutions.
But Santaco – the governing structure of the taxi industry – president Phillip Taaibosch told mourners at the memorial service of the slain drivers in Rabbie Ridge, Midrand, that the only way in which they could respond to the deaths of their members was to behave in a manner that would give them respect among members of the public and stop blaming government and police officers for their own weaknesses.
“We, as an industry, are not playing our game according to the rules at times. In many instances we want to be seen as so and so and own so many taxis – not helping one another but competing among ourselves. If we continue like this we will not succeed,” said Taaibosch.
Vishnu Naidoo, spokesperson for national police commissioner Khehla Sithole, said shifting the blame to police would not solve the problem.
“The taxi industry is part of the stakeholders that should work together with police to fight against crime,” said Naidoo.
He said the police could level the same allegations against the taxi industry, resulting in counterallegations, which would not help the situation.
He said police did not keep statistics of deaths according to categories but had, what he referred to as, only a “17-related” crimes scope.
Naidoo said police did not treat deaths differently or according to their causes.
“There is no such thing as taxi or political killings within the police sector. If ever we categorise them it’s purely for operational purposes and we can’t give that to you.”
But Naidoo confirmed the arrest of a suspect linked to a different charge but whom police believed could be linked to last weekend’s shooting.
He refused to divulge information because of the sensitivity and nature of the case. Naidoo said it was important at this stage to ensure caution around the KwaZulu-Natal taxi shootings to “protect the ongoing investigation and possible further loss of lives”.