Eleven people were killed when a minibus taxi was set upon with automatic rifles in an ambush in central KZN on Saturday night. Picture: SUPPLIED.
Eleven people were killed when a minibus taxi was set upon with automatic rifles in an ambush in central KZN on Saturday night. Picture: SUPPLIED.

Transport Minister Blade Nzimande has condemned what he described as the senseless killing of 11 taxi drivers in KwaZulu-Natal this weekend, and MPs warned that taxi violence has reached "crisis levels".

Four people were also critically wounded when gunmen opened fire on a minibus taxi between the towns of Colenso and Weenen on Saturday.

The ambush occurred when members of a Gauteng-based taxi drivers’ association were returning home after attending the funeral of a colleague at Ematimatolo in KwaZulu-Natal.

"These killings and injuries of innocent people are symbolic of organised crime and utter disregard of the life of other citizens. Such offences are serious crimes‚ unjustifiable and punishable by law. I commend the law enforcement officers for their swift response in activating a 72-hour action plan consisting of members from specialised units within the police — including Crime Intelligence‚ the Hawks‚ and the Special Task Force — to trace and apprehend those responsible for these killings‚" said Nzimande.

He said that there were well-established dispute mechanisms in the taxi industry that should be adhered to by all operators‚ regardless of their affiliation to any taxi association or grouping.

"We therefore cannot allow a small group of criminal syndicates to hold the taxi industry to ransom. We will act decisively and punish harshly those who continue to perpetuate these senseless acts of lawlessness‚" Nzimande warned.

Reacting to the weekend ambush, Francois Beukman, chairman of Parliament’s police portfolio committee, said, "While the committee is cognisant that a proper investigation would need to be undertaken to ascertain the firearms utilised in perpetrating these crimes‚ it is almost certain that illegal firearms were used.

"These firearms must be removed from our streets to deal effectively with crime."

He said the committee had on numerous occasions highlighted that in order to deal with crime effectively there was a need to eliminate illegal firearms.

"The safety strategy of the taxi industry is also necessary in the context as a large number of people who depend on this service as well as the impact these crimes have on innocent families."

He said the incident was "a further indication that violence in the taxi industry has now reached crisis levels in the country and a multisectoral intervention strategy must be implemented to effectively deal with this scourge".

The committee welcomed a 72-hour deadline given by national police commissioner Gen Khehla Sitole to a team of investigators to trace and arrest the killers.

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