While there is probably no one in SA who is not affected by violent crime, or a potential victim, people living in rural areas are by far the most vulnerable since, despite known dangers, they often enjoy less police protection than their urban counterparts.
According to a member of the Mbonambi family, during the evening of 25 March 2010, five men armed with a variety of weapons, including what appeared to be an R5 (a police or military weapon) opened fire on members of their family at their Dendethu home (near Mandeni) severely injuring Siyabonga Mbonambi, his brother Mdu, and their toddler nephew Lungela. Lungela and Mdu have since died. Elderly Mrs Mbonambi, who bears the scars of injuries she suffered during the political violence of the 1990s, and walks with difficulty, has now lost a son and a grandson.
This attack was not unexpected, since Siyabonga had spent much of the previous year in hiding in fear of his life. Siyabonga is the chairperson of the local eNembe and MachibiniTaxi Association and he had been receiving death threats. This state of affairs was drawn to the attention of the local (Sundumbili) police, who were asked to investigate the matter. The SAPS were also requested to take steps to stop the rival Long Distance Taxi Association from apparently breaking the law, and operating on the route for which the eNembe and Machibini Taxi Association have a permit from the Department of Transport. The KZN Department of Transport, including the Taxi Registrar, was also approached with a view to its implementing the law regarding permits and routes. There are long simmering tensions around taxi
operations, and irregular conduct by security companies, in this area. In 2008,
for example, the SAPS had been asked to investigate the activities of security
guards who were alleged to be openly armed with Uzzis and pump action shotguns, publicly drinking alcohol and intimidating commuters and taxi operators.
Why has nothing been done to restore the rule of law around taxi operations, protect people under threat, and disarm and charge those who openly flout the law?
Instead of protecting members of the Mbonambi family, three of them have been tortured by SAPS members, including by ‘tubing’ (medical evidence to this effect was collected by MERAN – Medical Rights Advocacy Network. The victims of last night’s attack are fearful of giving statements to the local police, alleging that certain members are in cahoots with taxi operators who are trying to take over their route.
According to an eye witness to last night’s attack, one of the attackers is linked to a security company employed by the Long Distance Taxi Association. According to the PSIRA (Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority) web site, the registration for the two entities bearing this name has been withdrawn. In other words, the company is breaking the law by operating and no one, including the SAPS, is doing anything about it. Security companies who are not registered have no legal right to guns (unless licensed to individuals)
The KZN Monitor calls on the MEC for Community Safety and Liaison and Transport and the Provincial Commissioner SAPS to take immediate steps to
- Remove this murder and attempted murder docket from
the Sundumbili SAPS and give it to a completely independent investigator
- Instruct whoever is responsible for ensuring that taxi operators act only in terms of their permits to intervene to protect the rights of the eNembe and Machibini operators
- Launch a full investigation into the apparentl illegal operations of the security company employed by the Long Distance Association, and a full audit of guns in the possession of employees.