Taxi operators shut down Ulundi after police blamed for death of driver
Taxi operators have shut down Ulundi, in northern KwaZulu-Natal, and are demanding the arrest of police officers they allege were involved in the death of one of their own.
Speaking to TimesLIVE on Monday, a taxi rank manager in Ulundi, Mabona Sithole, said a taxi driver was killed and the community had joined taxi associations to demand justice.
“A taxi driver allegedly died at the hands of police. A person has died, and from what we have gathered the police officers involved are not even from here,” Sithole said.
“We want an investigation and we want those responsible for his death to be arrested.”
He said the community had voluntarily joined the protest, and taxi associations operating in Ulundi were making sure the protest is not violent.
Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) national spokesperson Ndileka Cola said a death as a result of alleged police action is being investigated.
“It is alleged police were acting on information that the deceased was in possession of an unlicensed firearm. The deceased was allegedly at his girlfriend’s place when officers arrived and demanded the firearm. The deceased allegedly denied having a firearm. The officers allegedly locked themselves in a bedroom with the deceased, and it is alleged the deceased was heard crying in agony,” she said.
Cola said after a short while, the officers are alleged to have left with the deceased, who was handcuffed. The officers allegedly did not explain where or why they were taking the deceased.
“The deceased allegedly returned alone in a terrible state, very weak and vomiting blood. Realising his situation was deteriorating, he was taken to a local clinic for medical attention. The clinic transferred him to a hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries.”
Cola said Ipid has started its investigation.
She said the scene is volatile as the community is protesting and demanding that action be taken. She said Ipid officials will wait until the situation subsides so they can acquire witness statements.
“The directorate will attend the post-mortem session on Tuesday in KwaNongoma,” said Cola.
She said Ipid investigators will gather all necessary information and evidence as part of the investigation to inform action and recommendations by the directorate.
KZN police spokesperson Capt Nqobile Gwala said five suspects, aged between 36 and 45, were arrested on Sunday night for public violence in relation to the protest.
They are expected to appear today in the Mahlabathini magistrate’s court.
“The protest began on Sunday night when a group of people blockaded the R66 in Mbilane in Ulundi. They were throwing stones at the vehicles and police had to use rubber bullets to disperse the unruly crowd,” said Gwala.
She said the protest action continued on Monday.
“About 3,000 people gathered and blockaded the R66 road with burning tyres and rubble. Roads in the Ulundi CBD have been blockaded by taxi drivers. Public order police and local police are at the scene to stabilise the situation.”