Hired hitmen orchestrating taxi violence

Date: 11 Jun 2007
Hired hitmen are behind the latest outbreak of taxi violence in Gauteng, which has claimed eight lives, according to the Gauteng Community Safety Department. The renewed taxi war violence over the past two weeks has left eight people dead and an unknown number injured. "The taxis mafias are back, there are all the signs that the shootings were carried out by hitmen," Taxi Intervention Forum (TIF) spokesperson Dumisani Ngema told the Saturday Star. Police investigations into the latest outbreak of violence, which broke out over disputes about routes between rival taxi organisations, had already led to the arrest of several people, he added. A task team of the SAPS's Organised Crime Unit has been set up to investigate the latest wave of attacks on taxis, said police spokesperson Lungelo Dlamini. The TIF was started a year ago with a brief to reduce the number of illegal operators; reduce taxi violence; close illegal ranks; and find and arrest taxi hitmen. This week alone there have been at least three separate incidents and at least three people killed over taxi routes. A recent report by the Institute for Security Studies said that between 1994 and 1999, the estimated number of people killed in Gauteng as a result of taxi wars was between 1 500 and 3 000. According to the report, the South African Local and Long-Distance Taxi Association and the Letlhabile Taxi Organisation admitted they had hired hit squads to attack rival taxi bosses and their passengers. In Cape Town, the Ntsebeza Commission of Inquiry into taxi violence, set up by Western Cape Premier Ebrahim Rasool, found that a general feature of the violence in the taxi industry was that most of the killings and attacks were planned by warlords. "These warlords are an inner circle of a few people who operate secretly and are usually in charge of the war chest," the commission reported. "The iimbovane (hitmen) are young people who are not taxi operators, but are hired to commit acts of violence on behalf of the taxi associations. They were paid between R2 000 and R5 000." By Kashiefa Ajam The Star 09/06/07 e1