Taxi boss says KZN hit 'could have been a mistake'
Ivory Park Taxi Association chairperson Johannes Mkonza says he is still confused about why drivers from the association were massacred in KwaZulu-Natal.
"It has been a very difficult situation… People from all corners of Gauteng have been calling me since Sunday morning. These drivers did not even get permission from the office to go there‚" he told TimesLIVE on Monday.
A taxi ferrying drivers from a funeral in KwaZulu-Natal was ambushed by gunmen along the R74 road between Colenso and Weenen on Saturday night. Eleven people died when the vehicle was sprayed with bullets. Another died later in hospital. Mkonza said 10 of those killed were drivers from Ivory Park.
"The whole thing (trip to KZN) was never arranged through the office. Even the vehicle they were travelling in was not from Ivory Park‚ it belongs to our neighbouring association‚" he said.
"There is speculation that it could be a village thing... We are not in any conflict. Not even a dot of it. Our association is operating in peace. We are not in conflict with any other association currently… We are not fighting with anyone. As to why our drivers were ambushed‚ we are trying to figure it out‚" said Mkonza.
National Police Commissioner General Khehla Sitole activated specialised units to track down and arrest the gunmen‚ giving them a deadline of 72 hours to do so.
Mkonza said he was still asking himself why so many people could be killed for no reason.
"Our drivers are known as good drivers and well behaved. We are even thinking they were mistaken with another car in KZN that is in conflict there‚" he said.
The Democratic Alliance‚ meanwhile‚ called on the KwaZulu-Natal transport MEC Mxolisi Kaunda to increase the intelligence capacity within the province’s special taxi violence task team. Kaunda visited the crime scene on Sunday.
DA MPL and spokesman on transport Rafeek Shah said in a statement on Monday that the perpetrators “of this heinous crime” must be brought to book and welcomed Sitole’s commitment to making arrests.
“It is clear though that government still cannot deal with the scourge of taxi violence. In 2016 MEC Kaunda announced the establishment of a special taxi violence task team in the province. This weekend’s incident raises serious questions around the unit’s capacity and whether the intelligence sphere is sufficiently staffed so that it is able to be proactive and prevent people from dying‚” said Shah.
Shah believed the incident was linked to taxi violence in Gauteng.
“This weekend’s incident appears to be rooted in Gauteng‚ which also raises concerns around the level of cohesion and communication between the different anti-violence units within the country. Then there is the calibre of weapons used in this latest massacre‚ which are both military and paramilitary. The question is where do they come from and how are they getting into the wrong hands? This is an issue that government must confront urgently.”
Shah said the DA would monitor the efficacy of the taxi violence unit in the interests of ensuring a safe transport system for all road users.
The party also conveyed its condolences to the families of at least 11 people who were killed during the night-time massacre. Four other commuters were wounded.
Police said unknown gunmen had jumped onto the road from the bushes and opened fire at the taxi.
Video footage has emerged of the taxi that was ambushed in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands on July 21 2018. The taxi was on its way back to Johannesburg from the funeral of a colleague when it was attacked, leaving 11 people dead. It is believed that all passengers were in the taxi industry.