To make sure you never miss out on your favourite NEW stories, we're happy to send you some reminders

Click 'OK' then 'Allow' to enable notifications

The South African 'taxi mafia' which is responsible for thousands of deaths

The South African 'taxi mafia' which is responsible for thousands of deaths

The rivalry between taxi drivers has been an issue since the industry began

Taxis are a popular way for many tourists and locals to get around, but in South Africa the industry has gained widespread associations with violence and crime.

In 2018, 11 people died and four were left critically injured when gunmen opened fire as a minibus taxi was travelling along a rural road in eastern South Africa. All of the victims were members of a taxi association.

In 2021, at least seven people were killed and several others were injured in taxi-related shootings in various neighbourhoods, and the industry actually came to a standstill as shootings and conflicts took place between drivers.

The deaths are just some of those that have occurred since the inception of South Africa's minibus taxi industry in the 1980s, as drivers battled for customers and routes, and joined taxi associations in an attempt to keep their jobs secure.

Speaking to The New York Times in 2018, Mark Shaw, the director of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, explained: “Large parts of the industry have begun to look very Mafia-like, where you defend and expand your business turf through the use of violence. The most lucrative routes are long-distance, such as between Johannesburg and Kwa-Zulu Natal. That’s why there’s so much conflict.”

Jackie Dugard, a former analyst with the Commonwealth Secretariat in London, has described the taxi industry as 'one of the first avenues for Black capital accumulation' after the country's apartheid government deregulated public transport, and explained it quickly became a 'contested economic terrain'.

“Taxi associations have developed as informal agents of regulation, protection and extortion,” Dugard said in a study published by the Center for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation in Cape Town, adding: "Taxi violence has become more widespread, decentralized and criminal in character.”

Links between the taxi associations and political assassinations mean the 'mafia' is tough to stop, and earlier this year, Ntobeko Mhlatane, secretary of Nancefield Dube West Taxi Association, spoke about the ongoing deaths after five drivers were shot and killed and seven people were injured in an incident in May.

Taxi violence is responsible for thousands of deaths.
migstock / Alamy Stock Photo

"The killing of our taxi drivers has been going on for a very long time. I would like to believe this is our seventh taxi driver shot in this year. We are fighting over routes," he said.

Mhlatane continue: "Just yesterday, one of our drivers picked up a passenger in Carolina, Orlando, and as they were about to drive off, a car appeared next to the taxi and started shooting. We are literally dying over our driving routes."

The exact number of people who have died as a result of the 'taxi mafia' is unclear, but it's thought almost two thousands people lost their lives in the 90s alone. According to contract-killings database Assassination Witness, 43 percent of the assassinations in South Africa between 2000 and 2017 were related to the taxi industry.

If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via [email protected] 

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock

Topics: World News, Crime