11 taxi drivers shot dead in South Africa on return from funeral

Police investigating after gunmen open fire on minibus

A minibus with bullet holes on its side  on the road in KwaZulu Natal province, South Africa on Sunday morning. Photograph: Claudine Senegal/Ladysmith Herald via AP)

A minibus with bullet holes on its side on the road in KwaZulu Natal province, South Africa on Sunday morning. Photograph: Claudine Senegal/Ladysmith Herald via AP)

 

Gunmen have shot dead 11 taxi drivers returning to Johannesburg from the funeral of a colleague in Kwa-Zulu Natal.

The drivers, who were members of the Gauteng taxi association, were in a minibus driving along the R74 when unknown gunmen launched an ambush and opened fire.

“There was a shooting at about 8 p.m. (1800 GMT) last night. The vehicle was ambushed. There were 11 fatalities and four were seriously injured and are in hospital,” Kwa-Zulu Natal police spokesman Jay Naicker said.

“We understand they were from the Gauteng taxi association. There has been a lot of taxi violence in the area but we are still investigating who the perpetrators were.”

Minibus taxis are the most popular form of transport in South Africa and violence is common by rival groups vying for dominance on profitable routes.

In many parts of the country, minibus taxis are the only viable transport option, as they cover routes not serviced by buses or trains. Outside major cities, taxis are a also major source of income and employment.

Yet since its inception in the 1980s, South Africa’s minibus taxi industry has been governed in large part by violence, with documented links to political assassinations and other forms of organised crime.

The industry was officially born in 1987, when the apartheid government deregulated public transport, which had previously been controlled by a central agency.

By the end of the decade, the 16-seater minibus taxis, known as “combis,” were ubiquitous across the country, particularly in townships and rural “homelands” established for black people.

Reuters/New York Times