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South African Cabbies Clash; 10 Die, 24 Hurt

November 05, 1999|From Associated Press

EMPANGENI, South Africa — Heavily armed police were patrolling this seaside town Thursday after rival minivan taxi operators waged a 15-minute gun battle that left at least 10 dead and 24 wounded, a town official said.

The incident was the most serious of its kind in recent years in South Africa, where taxi associations often engage in violent battles to control lucrative commuting routes. The minivan taxis are the main means of transportation for impoverished blacks.

The operators used handguns, shotguns and heavy caliber weapons in the lengthy battle Thursday, pinning down 14 police officers assigned to provide security at the taxi station. A second group of officers finally restored order, said Pieter Odendaal, the town's chief executive.

At least two of those seriously wounded were bystanders, said police Capt. Vishnu Naidoo.

Empangeni, about 90 miles north of Durban on the Indian Ocean coast, is a commercial city in KwaZulu-Natal province.

Provincial and town officials decided to call in additional police reserves and military units and to bar taxis from entering the town until the dispute is settled.

"We know it's a drastic measure," Odendaal said. "But another 10 people dead is just not acceptable."

Alternative buses will be provided temporarily, he said.

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