South Africa

SOWETO PUBLIC TRANSPORT

Mpho Msauli’s family says murder highlights taxi industry’s links to gender-based violence

Mpho Msauli’s family says murder highlights taxi industry’s links to gender-based violence
Mpho Msauli (27) was killed on Leokote Street in Soweto. (Photos: Supplied)

After the murder of Mpho Msauli (27), community members held a meeting at which they complained that they were constantly mistreated by members of a local minibus taxi association. They said members of the association brandished and fired guns in public.

The last time the family of Mpho Msauli (27) saw her was on the day that she died, Saturday, 29 July, when she left her Soweto home to meet her friends. Armed with their CVs, the four friends had gathered less than a kilometre from Msauli’s home to help one another to apply for jobs online.

According to Msauli’s uncle Nhlanhla Tshabalala (60), Msauli was shot and killed between 9pm and 10pm as she and her friends were returning home.

“I would say she was very close to home. She was about 80 metres from home when she was shot. Right here on Leokote Street. A car approached and the driver slowed down, slid down the window and told the women he loves them. Their response was that ‘We already have our boyfriends’,” Tshabalala said.

The vehicle in question was a taxi and its driver said he was kidding and that he had a genuine question. The four friends came closer to the vehicle.

“The driver opened the door. It transpired that there was a male passenger with the driver. The driver’s companion jumped out and said he loves Mpho, whose response was a reiteration of her earlier statement that she already had a boyfriend,” Tshabalala said.

The passenger is then said to have spat at the women and they responded by spitting back.

“He then reached for his gun and Mpho and her friends ran in different directions. The others ran and hid at a nearby house, but I think Mpho’s intention was to run towards home,” Tshabalala said.

The passenger fired at Msauli, who was hit and declared dead soon after arrival at the Chiawelo clinic. The family was alerted to the incident by Msauli’s friends.

Nhlanhla Tshabalala, Mpho Msauli’s uncle. Msauli was shot and killed in Soweto on 29 July 2023. (Photo: Bheki Simelane)

Arrest and intrigue

One of Msauli’s friends opened a murder case at the Moroka Police Station after her killing. The friend was helped by a man who was playing dice on a street corner near Msauli’s home.

The gambler noted down the taxi’s number plate after it sped off after the shooting.

The minibus taxi in which Msauli’s alleged killer and the driver were travelling in had a large Soweto Taxi Services (STS) sticker in the rear window, denoting that it belonged to the taxi association.

When Msauli’s friend gave the vehicle’s registration number to the police, it matched that of a vehicle which had just been reported hijacked in Kliptown.

Tshabalala believes the driver attempted to deflect blame by inventing a false hijacking story after Msauli was killed.

“I was aggravated when they told me of the hijacking. I told them, ‘Let’s not play games.’ I told them that the person who reported the vehicle stolen knows the person who killed my niece,” Tshabalala said.

Moroka Police Station commander Brigadier Sevha Shiburi said an arrest had been made but investigations were still ongoing. 

“We arrested the driver of the taxi on Friday,” Shiburi said.

Daily Maverick understands the police are still searching for the driver’s passenger who allegedly killed Msauli. The police said the driver of the taxi was the person who reported being hijacked. 

Taxi industry and gender-based violence

Tshabalala said the family was shattered by Msauli’s killing. 

“We are terribly heartbroken, but we are consoled by the indispensable and hard conversations that her killing is uncovering regarding the wayward behaviour of members of the STS.”

Msauli’s killing sparked outrage in the community. Young people marched to the Moroka Police Station and demanded the immediate arrest of the perpetrators. 

This led to a community meeting, attended by the SAPS, Johannesburg Metro Police Department, the Community Policing Forum, local community organisations and residents, during which community members complained that they were constantly mistreated by members of the taxi association.

They said members of the association brandished and fired guns in public. Women called on taxi industry members to stop insulting them when they were drunk. 

“Insulting women is itself a form of gender-based violence,” Tshabalala said. 

Members of the STS were also accused of deliberately dropping off commuters far from where they requested to be dropped.

“So, this is how we are consoling our hurt, because while we might have been partly aware, many of us were shocked beyond measure by other revelations of what the STS members were capable of,” Tshabalala said. 

“Our major consolation ticket is that her blood did not spill in vain,” Tshabalala said. 

STS leaders had promised to support Msauli’s family with her burial, and they did so, Tshabalala said. 

Msauli was buried on Saturday, 5 August. The owner of the vehicle at the centre of the killing was also present at the funeral. 

STS officials declined a request from Daily Maverick to comment on the killing and the broader allegations against its members.

Ephraim Tshabalala (80), Mpho Msauli’s grandfather, at his home in Phiri on 7 August 2023. (Photo: Bheki Simelane)

‘Killing has tormented us’

Tshabalala said Msauli was a bubbly, outgoing person. 

“She was fun-loving,” he said. 

After completing matric, Msauli had planned to study journalism, which was her first passion. 

Her favourite TV show was X-Repo, a programme on Moja Love that involves attempts to repossess assets for their rightful owners.

“I would know when the show is on because she would bolt out of her room shouting the presenter’s opening and closing lines. I will always miss her,” said Msauli’s grandfather, Ephraim Tshabalala (80). “Her killing has tormented us.”  

The family said it was confident the police would promptly arrest the killer and resolve the case, but they don’t know when the arrested suspect will appear in court.

Msauli’s cousin Sanele said: “There has been no communication from the police. We don’t know anything, they haven’t called us. The community is even thinking of closing the streets again.

“We heard rumours that he appeared in court on Monday.” DM

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