Johannesburg – A taxi war over routes that killed one driver in a movie-style morning rush hour shootout on Tuesday has left commuters in the south of Joburg fearing for their lives.
Gauteng Department of Community Safety spokesperson Busaphi Nxumalo said the gunmen arrived in four flashy Golf 7 GTIs and indiscriminately opened fire at the new Lehae taxi rank in Vlakfontein, which is being claimed by both the Ennerdale Taxi Association and the rival Lawley Taxi Association.
According to Nxumalo, one person was killed and another injured in the two-hour shootout that left about 50 bullet cartridges strewn around the scene.
A female resident, who spoke to The Star on condition of anonymity, said she heard the gunshots and couldn’t do anything but scream and run for cover.
“It was scary. Bullets were flying everywhere,” she said.
Commuters blamed the late arrival of law enforcement for the prolonged exchange of gunfire.
An eyewitnesses and taxi owner from the Ennerdale Taxi Association said that this incident could have been avoided had police acted on numerous complaints about the counter-threats between the two warring associations.
The owner, who also requested not to reveal his name, said he fears for his life due to heightened tension in the area over ownership of the new rank.
He said: “We reported this intimidation to the police but nobody cared about what is happening.
“They could have avoided and prevented this.”
According to the taxi owner, the ongoing “war” between the Lawley and Ennerdale taxi associations worsened after a case was opened last week.
“There is a man (his name is known to The Star) who is responsible for this war; he came here with his gang. This is the third time he has come here with his Golf 7 cars packed with gunmen,” he said.
“Last week, he was here and told us that on Monday, he was going to kill us, wathi uzosinquma (he would cut our necks).
“So when they came today, we saw the need to fight back and not take this lying down. He is the only one responsible for this,” the man added.
The 34-year-old taxi driver killed in the turf war was allegedly among the group of men who attacked drivers at the taxi rank, according to Gauteng SAPS spokesperson Kay Makhubele.
“It is believed that the deceased was a member of the Lawley Taxi Association. It is alleged that the deceased was driving in a Golf vehicle. No arrests have been made,” said Makhubele.
According to Makhubele, no other injuries were reported, but he promised that the police would monitor the situation and ensure law and order in the area.
He confirmed that the dozens of empty cartridges collected were found in a 600m area.
“In terms of the cartridges left on the scene, I can’t say, but there were many shots fired. I could say up to 40 empty cases were found.”
South African National Taxi Council chairperson for the greater Johannesburg region, Ralph Jones, expressed concern about the violence and loss of life.
“We were informed, and a case was opened last week about the intimidation situation,” Jones said.
“We were in touch with the SAPS and the Gauteng Road and Transport Department, and informed them of the matter.
“We do not condone the barbaric situation that happened. Police are looking into the matter.”
Jones told The Star that until the situation had been investigated further, the council was unable to provide further comment on the matter and how to ensure that such incidents were avoided.
Department of Transport spokesperson Melitha Madiba said she could not comment about the shootout.
Just last month, Transport MEC Ismail Vadi shut down ranks and routes in Soweto, including the Mofolo Kwa-Mthethwa informal taxi rank Makhetha Stores informal taxi rank Dube station taxi rank Makhetha Garage (Phefeni) taxi rank and Uncle Tom’s taxi rank, in a bid to stop the violence among rival associations.
The closure of the taxi ranks left many minibus taxi commuters stranded until the ranks were reopened three weeks ago.