Police arrested two suspects connected to the recent spate of taxi violence in Cape Town after they allegedly opened fire on vehicles at Langa taxi rank on Monday.
The men, aged 45 and 55, are expected to be charged with attempted murder after a case was opened by detectives. Western Cape police spokesperson Warrant Officer Joseph Swartbooi said the suspects were expected to appear in the Bishop Lavis magistrate’s court once they were charged.
A bus driver was also attacked on Monday morning and transported to hospital.
Swartbooi said police went to the N2 highway in the direction of Cape Town after the Borchards Quarry Drive on-ramp and found the injured bus driver.
He said the suspects fled the scene and were yet to be arrested.
The taxi war has led to the murders of at least 76 people this year, according to a statement last week by the city.
A source said three men believed to be taxi hitmen were arrested on Thursday evening after the car they were driving was detected on CCTV. Metro police officers pulled over the suspects and found them in possession of firearms.
Mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith said three firearms were recovered from the suspects.
“CCTV operators spotted three people standing next to a parked vehicle on the N2 before the Mew Way turn-off — one of them was brandishing a firearm,” said Smith.
“Members were dispatched to investigate, but when they arrived the suspects fled,” he said. “They were soon apprehended, and a search of the vehicle revealed a 38 special revolver with six live rounds of ammunition and a 9mm pistol with 10 rounds in the magazine. The third weapon — a 9mm pistol with 13 live rounds — was found on one of the suspects, as well as an additional magazine with 12 rounds of ammunition,” said Smith.
The suspects, aged 39, 43, and 44, were detained at Khayelitsha police station.
“Cape Town has experienced an increase in gun violence in recent weeks, in particular linked to the ongoing taxi conflict,” said Smith. “Every firearm removed from the streets is one fewer opportunity to take lives and put public safety at risk,” he added.
Police sources who have conducted successful taxi violence investigations in the past said some assassins were from the Eastern Cape, had a criminal history and had spent time in jail where they were recruited into the numbers gangs including the 28s.
A source said the hiring of numbers gang members to carry out hits indicated a relationship between taxi bosses and gang bosses at some of SA’s biggest crime outfits.
Commuters have also been deliberately targeted in recent shootings as the taxi associations Codeta and Cata appear to be deploying terror tactics in their attempts to subdue one another.
The city said in a statement after two Golden Arrow buses were torched at a depot in Blackheath before dawn on Thursday that it could not be ruled out they were torched as part of the ongoing taxi violence.
Metro police spokesperson Ruth Solomons the two buses were close to a boundary wall and preliminary investigations found no signs of protesters or suspicious activity around the facility.
Codeta spokesperson Andile Khanyi told TimesLIVE that their drivers were not operating on Monday, leaving many commuters who live far from bus depots stranded once again.
“We are not operating as we fear for the safety of our passengers, because there is also shooting taking place here in our areas … we don’t know where it is coming from,” he said.
Asked if the burning of buses and the attack on a bus driver on Monday were connected to the taxi violence, Khanyi said where he operated in Khayelitsha Codeta had a “very good” relationship with the Golden Arrow bus company.
“As far as I know, Golden Arrow buses are operating as normal here in Khayelitsha. There’s no stones, there’s no shooting, because if our operation is not working we cannot expect Golden Arrow to not operate as well because we don’t want to leave our passengers stranded. I’m only talking about Khayelitsha, I’m not going to talk about other areas,” said Khanyi.
Asked why passengers were being targeted Khanyi said they were also “looking for answers”.
“The law enforcement agencies are the ones who are supposed to deal with that, because we don’t want to make assumptions. If we make assumptions it means that the killing is going to continue,” said Khanyi.
When it was put to him that the police had made connections between the wanton shooting of commuters queuing for taxis, Khanyi asked if the police had made any arrests to prove their claims.
“They’re supposed to arrest someone if they know what is happening.”
Bosses from both taxi associations met provincial government representatives and transport and public works MEC Daylin Mitchell on July 9 when they agreed to a ceasefire and a host of concessions to normalise relations. However, the ceasefire was broken on Tuesday with more shootings.
Mitchell said he gazetted a motion to shut down routes and taxi ranks as both a punitive and remedial step because the invasions by drivers of both associations on each other’s routes were believed to be the cause of the conflict.
On Monday taxi bosses were in lengthy meetings with provincial and national government representatives.
Transport minister Fikile Mbalula has since Friday been engaged in discussions with leadership of the taxi associations, according to a statement by his department.
He condemned the killings and called for calm.
“We are here to reinforce the efforts of the province and ensure an intergovernmental, multidisciplinary and targeted approach to safety, which is the only way to restore law and order in the taxi industry,” said Mbalula.
The department said he was monitoring negotiations between the leaders of the two associations.
“This is not the first time national government has intervened in the affairs of the taxi industry in the Western Cape. We were here last year and were encouraged by signs that the industry had turned over a new leaf,” said Mbalula.
He said a peace pledge was signed and a mediation process initiated.
“The leadership of Cata and Codeta even sat side by side at the national taxi lekgotla, which took place in August 2020. All these were positive signs that the industry was headed in the right direction.
“We are disappointed by the recent turn of events. Those who choose to resolve the industry disagreements through the barrel of a gun will not be shown leniency. They will face the full might of the law.”