A night of gunfire terror

2017-09-04 13:45
Bystanders were injured during PMB's two hour gunfire battle.

Bystanders were injured during PMB's two hour gunfire battle. (File)

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A night of terror.

That’s how residents described the fallout of recent rivalry between the Edendale/Esigodini Taxi Association and the Umkhonto taxi group which flared up on the weekend, leaving the Esigodini community in fear for their lives.

One bystander who was attending a wedding in the area was shot, while another was badly beaten when he asked those involved in the fighting to stay out of his yard.

As terrified residents cowered in their homes, it is alleged that members of the illegal operators, Umkhonto, and a Durban private security company, hired by the Edendale/Esigodini Taxi Association, exchanged gunfire in the streets.

The alleged taxi route dispute, which has been going on for months, left residents quaking in fear on Saturday night.

The Witness received information that the heavily-armed security company had been escorting taxis in the area when the gun battle began.

The Edendale/Esigodini Taxi Association, which is the legitimate operator in the area, and the Umkhonto group, which represents the so-called illegals. have been at loggerheads, with residents getting caught in the crossfire.

Umkhonto is not registered with the Department of Transport.

The ferocious shootout began just after 8.30 pm and residents in the area said it lasted for about two hours.

“It was like watching an action movie. We only hear of gun battles in countries like Iraq but last night it was in our backyards,” said a resident.

A police source who was at the scene, but is not authorised to speak to the media, said they picked up 98 cartridges from R5 assault rifles.

“When tensions flared, the provincial Taxi Violence Task Team was called in. Things immediately spiralled out of control and more units, including the Tactical Response Team and Dog Unit, also had to be brought in for back-up,” the police source said.

Resident Nikiwe Nkwanyana said she was in the lounge with her three children when shots were fired.

“We were all sitting in the lounge when we heard gunshots go off. I thought we were going to die,” Nkwanyana said.

She said she lay on the floor holding her children as bullets were flying in her yard.

One bullet pierced the window and became lodged in a wall in the Nkwanyana home.

Several bullet holes in the wall bore testimony to the incident. Inside the house, the bullets chipped the plaster off the walls in several places.

Nkwanya’s eldest son, Mbongeni, said that during the commotion he was assaulted by the security guards.

“During the gunbattle the security guards ran into our yard to take cover. They were firing shots from our yard towards the people on the street.”

Mbongeni said when he went outside to investigate he was assaulted.

“I asked them to please leave our yard because we had children inside the house. One of the security guards swore at me and assaulted me,” he said.

Mbongeni said he was punched in the face and also assaulted with the butt of a gun.

“I crawled back inside the house, fearing that they may come and hurt my mother and siblings,” he said.

“Why would they come into our yard? We had nothing to do with their dispute.

“My family doesn’t own a single taxi and none of us work for the taxi industry,” he added.

Mbongeni was treated for his injuries at Edendale Hospital on Saturday night.

The Nkwanyana home is one of four houses in the area that were riddled with bullet holes after the shooting.

A few metres away from the Nkwanyana homestead, the nuptials of Jabulani Ndlovu ended on a sad note when his friend, Vusi Nxele, a groomsman, was shot.

Nxele, who was a bystander, is said to have been shot in the abdomen and foot when the two rival taxi associations opened fire on each other. He is reported to be in a stable condition in hospital.

Two vehicles parked outside the Ndlovu home were also damaged during the shootout.

Residents said the heavily armed security company started operating in the area last Thursday.

On Sunday, taxi operators halted services in Esigodini, with commuters being told to find alternative transport to their destinations.

KZN police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala said charges of attempted murder are being investigated by Plessislaer SAPS.

Gwala said two people were injured during the incident.

KZN Transport, Community Safety and Liaison spokesperson Mluleki Mntungwa said MEC Mxolisi Kaunda has dispatched a task team to try and resolve all problems that face the Esi­godini/Edendale Taxi Association.

This was confirmed by Santaco KZN chairperson Boy Zondi, who said MEC Kaunda was working to resolve the issue.

“Our hands are tied on the issue because we only deal with taxi operators that are registered.

“We are very concerned by the war that is brewing in that area,” Zondi said.

Meanwhile, KwaPata taxi boss Sfiso Nxele (30) was gunned down outside his house last Friday.

According to police, Nxele sustained multiple gunshot wounds and was declared dead at the scene.

The motive for his murder is unknown at this stage.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  taxi violence

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