Maverick Citizen


Taxi violence surge — Mthatha blocked off as gunshots heard, people warned to stay indoors

Taxi violence surge — Mthatha blocked off as gunshots heard, people warned to stay indoors
An image from a video taken early on Monday morning in Mthatha as taxi operators blocked all entrances into the town. (Screengrab: Supplied)

Following claims that the police had disarmed one faction in a deadly taxi war this weekend, Mthatha in the Eastern Cape was blocked off completely on Monday morning, with no vehicles able to travel in or out, while gunshots were heard inside the town. WhatsApp warnings were sent to residents to remain indoors.

The N2 and all other access roads into Mthatha were completely blocked off this morning (Monday, 27 May), shots could be heard inside the town, and trucks stuck were looted in the mayhem.

Just before 9am the Eastern Cape government confirmed it had called for reinforcements for the police from the South African National Defence Force. 

It is understood that the blockade follows a police operation last week at Nelson Mandela Hospital where panicked staff were confronted by a large group of men armed with rifles and other firearms. Taxi organisations are claiming the police are taking sides in a conflict that started last week and has already claimed several lives, by disarming one of the factions.

In the past week, 18 people were injured in taxi-related incidents in Mthatha.

Two voice notes were sent early in the morning by residents who managed to get to work, warning others to stay at home. The notes stated that the Border Taxi Association was behind the blockades and that angry members of the organisation were also burning cars. Several fires could be seen on videos of Mthatha but this has not yet been confirmed.

‘We do not want to kill your kids’

Another voice note said: “Mazibuko, chairperson of the taxi association in Mthatha. I want to warn you all parents and their school kids that we do not want to be dragging kids into this, which may result in their deaths. Please keep them at home, we do not want to see them. In hostels, 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.”

Police spokesperson Priscilla Naidu said taxi violence broke out between rival associations on Sutherland Street in Mthatha last Thursday. Six people were shot and wounded. A total of 38 pistols and five rifles were confiscated for further investigation. 

It is understood that the taxi associations are demanding the return of their firearms.

“A group of people from a taxi association gathered at the hospital. These individuals were armed with firearms, and according to the hospital, staff and patients felt intimidated and threatened, thus fearing for their safety,” Naidu said. 

taxi violence Mthatha

At about 8am on Monday trucks stuck on the N2 near Mthatha were being looted. (Screengrab: Supplied)

“Police responded after the group failed to adhere to the intervention by the private security. The group was approached and searched. 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 were being investigated. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Non-payment of scholar transport fees triggers huge taxi strike in Eastern Cape

Read more in Daily Maverick: Port St Johns on knife’s edge amid bid to broker peace between warring taxi associations

Provincial Commissioner, Lieutenant-General Nomthetheleli Mene said the SAPS is committed to maintaining peace and order and will respond promptly to any situations threatening public safety. 

“It is imperative to clarify that our officers were dispatched in response to a formal complaint received from the hospital. Our primary objective was to restore order and ensure the safety of all individuals within the public space, which in this case was the hospital. We, once again, urge all parties involved in the taxi feud to seek peaceful resolutions and respect the rule of law.”

Mene also urged feuding taxi associations operating in the Maclear area to resolve their differences through dialogue and negotiations. 

Bullets fly

Last Wednesday, two Toyota Fortuners were on their way from Maclear to Tsolo at Ntywenka cuttings on R396 when they were shot at by unknown persons. One person in one Fortuner was killed, while the others got into the second vehicle and drove off but collided with an oncoming Toyota Quantum. A passenger in the Quantum sustained a gunshot wound to her arm. 

On the same day, the local hospital reported that a person brought to the hospital by taxi owners had died while several others sustained gunshot wounds.

Police are investigating two murder and 12 attempted murder cases. 

Trucks were hijacked and used to block the entrances to Mthatha. (Screengrab: Supplied)

About 5km from the crime scene, two VW Polos with four occupants were found, and a bag containing two pistols, a magazine and rounds of ammunition were seized. The suspects, aged between 25 and 44, are detained on charges of illegal possession of firearms and ammunition. Police are probing their possible link to the shooting incident. 

“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 said.

Unathi Binqose from the Eastern Cape transport department said Mthatha Airport was also shut down. 

“Eastern Cape Transport and Community Safety MEC Xolile Nqatha has issued a stern warning that the state will deal decisively against any fearmongers responsible for voice notes and videos that are doing the rounds of social media, seeking to intimidate, inciting violence, threatening people’s democratic right to participate in the upcoming elections,” he said.

“The most recent of these social media posts is a brazen video recording by a man, allegedly who calls for a complete shutdown of Mthatha, a stop of election campaigns in and around Mthatha, less than 48 hours before the elections.

“Those travelling to, from and through the Mthatha area are urged to either delay their travel time significantly or avoid the town completely as law enforcement is busy trying to control the situation in the town.

“All the major entry/exit points have been blockaded, allegedly by protesting taxi operators. They have hijacked trucks and used them to blockade both sides of the N2 and have done the same with the R61 road.

This has also affected the operations in Mthatha Airport, which has also been forced to close for the time being.” DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Patterson Alan John says:

    Nothing has changed in Mthatha.
    I lived there for three years (1990 -1993) and taxis shooting at one another and setting fire to vehicles was observed first-hand. We were playing tennis and had to hide behind a concrete fencing wall. Unfortunately, after the shooting stopped, we had to abandon the tennis match due to the vehicle’s toxic smoke blowing across the court.
    It was a horrible town then and my imagination tells me what it looks like now.
    More decrepit.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted


This article is free to read.

Sign up for free or sign in to continue reading.

Unlike our competitors, we don’t force you to pay to read the news but we do need your email address to make your experience better.

Nearly there! Create a password to finish signing up with us:

Please enter your password or get a sign in link if you’ve forgotten

Open Sesame! Thanks for signing up.

A South African Hero: You

There’s a 99.7% chance that this isn’t for you. Only 0.3% of our readers have responded to this call for action.

Those 0.3% of our readers are our hidden heroes, who are fuelling our work and impacting the lives of every South African in doing so. They’re the people who contribute to keep Daily Maverick free for all, including you.

The equation is quite simple: the more members we have, the more reporting and investigations we can do, and the greater the impact on the country.

Be part of that 0.3%. Be a Maverick. Be a Maverick Insider.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

MavericKids vol 3

How can a child learn to read if they don't have a book?

81% of South African children aged 10 can't read for meaning. You can help by pre-ordering a copy of MavericKids.

For every copy sold we will donate a copy to Gift of The Givers for children in need of reading support.