South Africa

JOZI SHOOTING

Four dead in Joburg taxi violence, but still no dedicated law enforcement unit

Four dead in Joburg taxi violence, but still no dedicated law enforcement unit
The scene at Nancefield Hostel in Soweto where two taxi squad patrollers were gunned down on 15 September 2020. (Photo: Gallo Images / Sharon Seretlo)

The notorious Faraday taxi rank in downtown Johannesburg was the scene of yet more bloodshed on Wednesday when unknown gunmen opened fire.

Gauteng police spokesperson Colonel Dimakatso Sello said in a statement on Wednesday that “unknown men allegedly shot randomly at a taxi rank in Faraday, leaving four people dead and three others injured”.

The shooting had occurred at about 5pm. No suspects had been arrested and investigations were under way.

Warnings to Soweto commuters began doing the rounds on Thursday morning that taxis affiliated to the Witwatersrand African Taxi Association (WATA) and the Johannesburg Taxi Association (JTA) would not be running.

Commuters reacted angrily, lashing out at the associations on social media for not giving them sufficient warning.

The Faraday taxi rank is notorious for deadly attacks on taxi operators. 

Police could not confirm whether those killed on Wednesday were drivers or taxi owners.

Police respond to taxi violence in Crossroads, Soweto on 19 April 2021. (Photo: Gallo Images / Fani Mahuntsi)

In previous violence, passengers have borne the brunt of the longstanding instability in the taxi industry.

In February, unknown men robbed passengers at gunpoint aboard a taxi travelling to Soweto. The driver was later found dead. 

On 16 April, another taxi headed to Soweto was attacked by men using the same modus operandi. A shaken passenger, who was among the victims, spoke to Daily Maverick.

“I normally hear about these stories, but today I experienced the brazen criminality first-hand.”

The Gauteng department of transport hasn’t had much success in quelling taxi violence. For years, when violence flared up the department’s only solution was to temporarily close the affected taxi ranks. This did little to stop the shootings.

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Speaking to Daily Maverick on Thursday, spokesperson for the provincial transport department Theo Nkonki said the department had not taken any decisions with regard to the recent shootings.

’’The department is meeting with the involved parties today [Thursday]… we will communicate once that meeting has taken place,’’ Nkonki said.

The latest shooting adds to hundreds of cases of taxi violence the police have failed to resolve.

About 500 murder dockets involving the taxi industry remain open. This was revealed during the commission on taxi violence at the Emoyeni Conference Centre in Johannesburg in 2020.

The commission heard that much of the violence in the industry arose from disputes involving routes and permits, and that the reason so few cases were solved was that there was no law enforcement unit dedicated to tackling taxi violence. 

A dedicated police unit had existed, the commission was told, but had been integrated into the department of community safety.

Witswatersrand African Taxi Association (WATA) drivers gather in Soweto after Gauteng transport MEC Ismail Vadi announced his decision to ban disputed routes and taxi ranks on 12 July 2017. (Photo: Gallo Images / Sowetan / Mduduzi Ndzingi)

Officers tasked with investigating taxi violence told the commission they were poorly equipped, with only 10 investigators owning laptops whose connection to servers was “an ongoing problem”.

Another problem was that the investigating team was understaffed.

Lieutenant-Colonel Mohamed Bayat told the commission there were only 12 personnel tasked with investigating taxi violence for the entire Gauteng province.

The provincial department of transport admitted it had mishandled the taxi industry. See: Gauteng taxi violence: ‘We have dropped the ball’, says transport official.

Asked whether the commission’s recommendations for the taxi industry had been implemented, Nkonki said: “The department has been working closely with the taxi industry on a wide range of issues, including the corporatisation and modernisation of the industry. 

“The Gauteng provincial legislature has passed regulations establishing the Public Transport Arbitration Office, which is dedicated to dealing with public transport-related disputes and conflicts.”

One of the commission’s recommendations was that the transport department establish a law enforcement task team dedicated to the taxi industry. This has not materialised. 

The two taxi associations could not be reached for comment on Thursday. DM

 

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