Eight behind bars after taxi dispute turns violent

The taxi violence that erupted in Edendale in the early hours of Monday, has left eight people behind bars.

Plessislaer police spokesperson Captain Musa Ntombela said the arrests were made after two counter charges were opened as a result of the alleged standoff between legal and illegal taxi operators.

He confirmed that cases of assault and pointing of firearms were opened.

Ntombela said a taxi driver belonging to the Edendale Taxi Association was shot at Esigodini, near Edendale and the private security company hired by the association swarmed to the scene of the shooting.

“They found a BMW with three occupants and they searched them and two of the occupants were found in possession of licensed firearms.

“When they went to the other taxi, a security personnel member pointed a firearm at the driver while other security guards searched the conductor and the standoff ensued,” said Ntombela.

He said both parties opened similar cases against each other.

He also confirmed the arrest of six security personnel and two civilians.

The South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) in Pietermaritzburg said the rift was caused by the illegal operators who started their own illegitimate taxi association.

The taxi regulator also raised concerns around commuters’ safety after shots were fired at the scene.

An official from Santaco, who asked to remain unnamed due to the sensitivity of the issue, said Santaco only recognises the Edendale-Esigodini Taxi Association as the legitimate operator in the area.

But the defiant community of Esigodini insisted on forming their own taxi association which is not even registered with the Department of Transport.

On Mondday commuters were caught in the crossfire as the two taxi rivals clashed over the taxi route.

According to eyewitnesses, a ferocious brawl broke out just after 6 am when the so-called illegals blockaded the road.

Subsequently, an armed private security company, which was hired by the Edendale-Esigodini Taxi Association to protect the legal operators, was called in to quell the tension; however, violence flared up resulting in several shots being fired.

A Santaco official said the security company was only retaliating after the illegals opened fire at them.

“We don’t want to find ourselves in a situation where we resolve this issue after bloodshed. The Esigodini community wanted to form their own separate association that will be operated by the members of the community. That is something that is not consistent with the constitution of Santaco,” said the official.

The recent feud was sparked after negotiations between the two rivals collapsed in the past weeks.

“There have been many attempts where meetings were held to try to resolve this matter.

“But how can you negotiate with defiant people?

“First of all they don’t have the operating permit yet they want to control the route,” said the Santaco official.