Taxi boss gunned down

2017-12-27 13:30
The scene where Mpumalanga Taxi Association chairperson Mbhekeni Hlophe (64) was shot and killed in a hail of bullets on Christmas morning in Sweetwaters.

The scene where Mpumalanga Taxi Association chairperson Mbhekeni Hlophe (64) was shot and killed in a hail of bullets on Christmas morning in Sweetwaters. (Supplied)

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The chairperson of a KwaZulu-Natal taxi association died in a hail of bullets when his vehicle was ambushed in Sweetwaters on Christmas morning.

Sources told The Witness that Mpumalanga Taxi Association chairperson Mbhekeni Hlophe (64) had been driving in his white Audi A5 near the Mpumuza Clinic on Monday morning when three men in a silver Mercedes — two allegedly armed with 9 mm firearms — began shooting at Hlophe.

A source said the Mercedes allegedly drove in front of Hlophe’s car and blocked him off. The gunmen then opened fire, firing some 31 shots and spraying bullets through the driver’s side window and the windscreen.

It is believed Hlophe died immediately after suffering multiple gunshot wounds to his body.

An informed source told The Witness that a bag with money and a firearm were left in Hlophe’s car in the wake of the shooting, indicating the killing was most likely a “hit”, but this could not be confirmed officially.

KwaZulu-Natal provincial police spokesperson, Lieutenant-Colonel Thulani Zwane, said a case of murder was opened at the Plessislaer police station following the shooting of Hlophe.

He said the motive for the killing was unknown at this stage.

“No arrests have been made and our provincial task team is investigating the matter,” said Zwane.

KwaZulu-Natal has been plagued by taxi-related violence this past year.

On Christmas eve, 80-year-old KwaMnyandu Taxi Association chairperson Mzameni Mthiyane was shot and killed at his home in Umlazi.

Mthiyane was in his bedroom when an unknown man came to the house and asked to speak with the chairperson.

Zwane said when Mthiyane went outside, the visitor asked for employment and Mthiyane told him to call the office at Z section taxi rank.

“Mthiyane turned to go back to the bedroom and the man shot him once in the head before fleeing the scene,” said Zwane.

“The motive for the killing is unknown.

“One 9 mm cartridge was found inside the house. The provincial task team will investigate the case,” he said.

In July this year, 66-year-old taxi operator Sibusiso Obed Nkomonde from Newcastle, who chaired the Sizwe Taxi Owners Association, was shot dead.

Nkomonde was ambushed by three armed men on the P843 while driving from Osizweni to Utrecht.

He was alone at the time.

In another incident in July, an eight-year-old child and her mother died after they were hit by a vehicle as the driver dodged gunmen on the N3.

Two executive members of the Mpumalanga Taxi Association were shot at along the N3, near Cato Ridge, as they made their way to Pietermaritzburg. One victim, said to be the vice-chairperson, died at the scene while the other, a vice-secretary, was rushed to hospital with serious injuries.

In late October this year a “well-planned hit” on a Klipriver taxi boss left 10 people dead near Ladysmith.

Klipriver Taxi Association deputy chairperson, Muzikayifani Ngobese, his daughter Nozipho, two bodyguards and Ngobese’s driver came under fire from gunmen using high-calibre weapons while they were travelling in a bakkie along the Matiwaneskop Road early in the morning.

Occupants of two unknown vehicles began firing shots and when the hail of bullets hit Ngobese’s car the driver lost control and crashed into an oncoming minibus taxi that was transporting teachers.

The taxi boss and all occupants of his car were shot dead. Another five people in the minibus taxi died and other passengers were seriously injured.

Reacting to news of the shootings of Hlophe and Mthiyane, the KZN chairperson of Santaco (South African National Taxi Association), Boy Zondi, expressed shock that two KZN taxi bosses were shot dead in just one weekend.

He said although the killings were “disturbing”, he could not speculate on whether they were related to taxi violence or not.

“If the killings are taxi-related, when will this all stop? If we cannot see eye to eye then we need to sit down and talk about it, not pick up guns and shoot people,” said Zondi.

“We send our sincerest condolences to both families and we say to the taxi industry that they need to stop using guns and start using boardrooms to resolve issues,” he said.

Zondi added that there were 242 taxi associations in KZN but said there are only “a few dirtying the taxi industry’s name”.

“We hope the police find the people who have done this and they are brought to justice.

“It is a very sad day,” he said.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  taxi violence

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