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Taxi War Sparks Violence, Looting and Road Blockades in Mthatha

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A feud between two taxi associations in the Eastern Cape has led to widespread violence, looting and road blockades this Monday morning (May 27, 2024).

This after police allegedly disarmed one faction in a deadly taxi war over the weekend.

On Monday morning, the town of Mthatha was completely blocked off, with all roads in and out closed and gunshots heard within the town.

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Residents were warned via WhatsApp to stay indoors as chaos unfolded.

The N2 and all other access roads into Mthatha were blocked, leading to looting of stranded trucks amidst the turmoil.

By 9 AM, the Eastern Cape government confirmed calling for reinforcements from the South African National Defence Force.

This escalation follows a tense police operation last week at Nelson Mandela Hospital, where a large group of men armed with rifles and other firearms confronted panicked staff.

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Taxi organizations claim police have sided with a rival faction by disarming one group in a conflict that erupted last week, resulting in several deaths and 18 injuries in the past week.

Two early morning voice notes from residents who reached work warned others to stay home, stating that the Border Taxi Association was behind the blockades and that its members were also burning cars.

Several fires were seen in Mthatha in videos circulated on social media.

‘We Do Not Want to Kill Your Kids’

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One voice note featured Mazibuko, chairperson of the Mthatha taxi association, urging parents to keep their children at home to avoid them getting caught in the violence.

“We do not want to see any kids outside. We do not want to kill your kids; this is serious. Please take this message seriously,” he warned.

Police spokesperson Priscilla Naidu reported that taxi violence broke out between rival associations on Sutherland Street last Thursday, resulting in six people being shot and wounded.

Authorities confiscated 38 pistols and five rifles for further investigation.

Taxi associations are demanding the return of their firearms.

Naidu explained that a group from a taxi association, armed with firearms, gathered at the hospital, causing staff and patients to feel threatened.

“Police responded after the group failed to adhere to the intervention by private security. Many of them were armed with pistols and rifles. The presence of the group is linked to the taxi violence that took place on Wednesday and Thursday in Maclear and Mthatha, respectively,” she added.

Charges of intimidation, trespassing, and contravention of the Control of Access to Public Premises and Vehicles Act are being investigated.

Provincial Commissioner, Lieutenant-General Nomthetheleli Mene, emphasized the SAPS’s commitment to maintaining peace and order, urging all parties in the taxi feud to seek peaceful resolutions and respect the law.

Bullets Fly

The violence peaked last Wednesday when two Toyota Fortuners travelling from Maclear to Tsolo were shot at on R396.

One person was killed, and another injured in a subsequent collision with a Toyota Quantum.

That same day, a local hospital reported the death of a person brought in by taxi owners, along with several others sustaining gunshot wounds.

Police are investigating two murders and 12 attempted murders related to these incidents.

Approximately 5km from the crime scene, two VW Polos with four occupants were found, and police seized a bag containing two pistols, a magazine, and ammunition.

The suspects, aged 25 to 44, face charges of illegal possession of firearms and ammunition, with police probing their link to the shooting.

“Violence is not the solution and only leads to unnecessary suffering and loss of life. We will increase visibility in the area and take decisive action against those perpetrating violence,” Mene stated.

Airport Shutdown

Unathi Binqose from the Eastern Cape Transport Department confirmed that Mthatha Airport was also closed due to the unrest.

Transport and Community Safety MEC Xolile Nqatha issued a warning against fearmongers responsible for inciting violence through social media.

“Travel to and from Mthatha is highly discouraged as law enforcement works to control the situation. Major entry and exit points have been blockaded by protesting taxi operators, affecting operations at Mthatha Airport,” Binqose said.

The situation remains tense as authorities work to restore order in Mthatha amid ongoing taxi violence.

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