Task team established to tackle KZN South Coast taxi violence

The South African Police Service (SAPS) has set up a multi-disciplinary task team to probe and curb ongoing taxi industry-related violence in KwaZulu-Natal’s Ugu and Harry Gwala Districts.

The unrelenting violence in the two regions has claimed 24 lives since the start of the year.

The developments were on Thursday announced by Police Minister Bheki Cele during a consultative engagement hosted at the Ugu Sport and Leisure Centre in the south of KZN. About 18 taxi association representatives and other taxi stakeholders attended the session.

Ministry spokesperson Lirandzu Themba said the intervention aims to address the growing acts of taxi violence that have led to the fatal shooting of 24 people around the Ugu and Harry Gwala Districts in KwaZulu-Natal since the start of the year.

Minister Cele condemned “any action by those in the taxi industry that seek to undermine the rule of law”.

The Minister said: “The death toll due to taxi violence has more than tripled compared to the same period last year where five people were killed in this area. If there is no special intervention, we might reach crisis proportions, so we cannot fold our arms and say this is a transport problem only. This is a safety issue that needs police intervention and a buy-in from other departments to deal with some of the underlying causes of this violence.”

Cele said the bloodshed must be stopped and has assured the taxi industry stakeholders that the multi-pronged team should be set up and operational in the coming weeks.

“The fact that some taxi associations can collect about millions of rands annually through member fees which is not taxed and the associations officials can decide how to use that money which [is] unaccounted for, cannot be allowed to continue.

“It is clear we as government and especially as law enforcers need to clean house, clean this industry at the level of ‘izinkabi’ [also known as hitmen] because they are being paid by someone and also we need to clean at the level of ownership.”

The Minister is adamant this team that will be assembled, must ensure that taxi associations and the affiliated owners can explain the kind of wealth they accumulate and what the money is being used for. He further added the work of the task team has the potential to create a referral point on how to deal with similar taxi industry conflicts, countrywide.

“The police alone can’t deal with this matter, while we have to work with agility to make arrests even within our ranks. We must put together a competent team and where there is money not accounted for, those best placed entities such as the South African Revenue Service or SIU can intervene, so accountability can be promoted in this sector and those in the taxi industry should explain where some of this money comes from and is being used for.”

Over and above the Department of Transport, Community Safety and Liaison officials led by the Acting MEC Jomo Sibiya, it is envisaged the team will rope in officials from the South African National Taxi Council (SANTACO) South African Revenue Services and Special Investigation Unit (SIU). The enforcement of the law should also see the SAPS arrest the hitmen and the masterminds behind the senseless taxi related attacks and murders.

While SANTACO has welcomed the establishment of the task team, another installation of the taxi stakeholder meeting will take place in the coming weeks to finalise the mandate and functions of the multi-pronged team.