Gauteng’s Police Commissioner to be called before Taxi Violence Inquiry

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Gauteng Police Commissioner Elias Mawela will be called before the Commission of Inquiry into Taxi Violence in Gauteng to account for hundreds of unresolved taxi-related murders.

This follows revelations by retired Lieutenant General Vinesh Moonoo, the commission’s investigator, that 505 taxi-related murder cases, dating back to 2012, are still pending.

On Monday, the President of the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco), Phillip Taaibosch, said when taxi operators are killed, in most cases, the suspects are never found.

Taaibosch has been testifying at the commission underway in Parktown, Johannesburg.

The commission was set up in September last year after a spate of taxi-related killings.

Taaibosch says one of the causes of taxi violence in Gauteng is the high number of taxi associations operating in the same city.

He made reference to rival taxi associations that have clashed over routes in the Johannesburg area for years.

Taaibosch says they should follow the example of his home province, the Free State, which has adopted a One Town, One Taxi Association approach.

“We brought associations in the Free State from close to 130 associations to about 75. If you go to Qwa qwa you’ve got one taxi association, go to Harrismith, you’ve got one taxi association, Bloemfontein, one taxi association. And they’ve been operating like that now for I think more than 20 years. And I can tell you judge you don’t have, you have mild conflicts. I can’t remember when last was there violence in the taxi industry in the Free State.”

Mall of Africa shootings

He, however, says the deadly shootings that took place soon after the opening of the Mall of Africa in Midrand, was caused by the duplication of operating licenses.

“The route to the mall has always been in the route of operators either from Alexandra or Tembisa. It was not necessary for anybody to issue new operating licenses for those routes. That’s what caused violence, that’s what caused people to be killed during that time, due to the duplication. The people who came to operate on that route, we then discovered it was not illegal operators it was people who were given legal operating licenses.”

Taaibosch says it is curious that when taxi operators are killed, in most cases, the suspects are never found. He says the killing of taxi operators appears to be treated differently to other serious crimes.

“And what is amazing is that, and I’m not a racist, at night when nobody is anywhere, a white girl will be raped, before the next 24 hours the victims would be found, or a white man. When it’s a taxi operator you don’t find the suspect. And we begin to ask ourselves whether are we part of this country, our life doesn’t matter, it’s a taxi operator. When a politician is killed, perpetrators are found.”

‘I don’t know whether I’ll go back home’

The Santaco President got a bit emotional when he spoke about his own safety.

“I’m a parent, I’m a grandfather, I’m a great grandfather, you don’t know. And at times when I leave my house. Last night when I said to you Ntate Matlala see you in the morning, I said to my wife totsiens, till we meet. Is because I don’t know whether I’ll go back home. Because I don’t know who are these cowards that are killing taxi operators, it’s sad.”

He says there is a lack of will and leadership in addressing taxi-killings. Taaibosch even questioned whether the commission would make any difference, saying government has failed to implement recommendations of similar commissions in the past.

Evidence leader Nano Matlala assured him that the commission will try its best to get to the bottom of taxi killings.

He says part of this will be to call the Provincial Commissioner Elias Mawela to answer as to why over 500 taxi-related murder cases, dating back to 2012 have not been resolved.

“Retired Lieutenant General Vinesh Moonoo found out that matters are not properly investigated. Last week I had a meeting with lieutenant Mawela, including the taxi unit, discussed this with them, they will be called to testify before the commission, why? Some of the matters are being closed, why is that being done. The Chairperson Justice Jeremiah Shongwe was asked exactly what you’re saying, what will make this one better than any other commission, he said this is a different one, we’ll try our best.”