Zuma-linked taxi dons go legal in bid to expand empire
The long fight over routes is littered with bodies. Now the feared Gcabas are going by the book to grab 10 more
The blood spilled onto the concrete of the Brook Street Taxi Rank in Durban’s CBD. In the wake of a brazen, Mafia-style dawn shooting, three people lay dead and three injured.
It was Wednesday, September 16 2015. Taxis were at the heart of that bloody day in the city.
The incident was linked to a feud over lucrative routes to the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast, with the Durban-based Sonke Long Distance Association and the Port Shepstone-based Zamokuhle Long Distance Taxi Association pitted against each other.
Twelve people – including former president Jacob Zuma’s nephew Mfundo Gcaba, who was accused of being at the heart of the taxi feud – were arrested and charged with three counts of murder, one of attempted murder and a count of public violence. However, charges were later withdrawn in the Durban High Court because of inconsistencies in the ballistic report on the firearms allegedly used in the shooting, and a failure to trace key witnesses.
Before the incident, six people had already been killed since the war between the rival taxi associations broke out.
But there would be more blood spilled.
Just two days after the Brook Street shooting, a fully laden taxi from Port Shepstone was sprayed with bullets on the M4 freeway, south of Durban. The driver was injured and a passenger grazed by a bullet.At the time, Mfundo Gcaba, one of the much-feared Gcaba brothers, was accused of spearheading a hostile takeover of routes from other associations, using the Sonke Long Distance Taxi Association. The Gcaba brothers, who have blood ties with Zuma through their mother, own a taxi empire headed by Mandla Gcaba and his brothers Roma, Thembinkosi and Mfundo.
They are arguably the most feared family in the KwaZulu-Natal taxi industry and have a reputation countrywide as untouchable dons of the multibillion-rand industry.
At the time the feud, Mfundo was accused of dropping Zuma’s name to bulldoze several South Coast taxi associations into forced “agreements” to share their routes with Sonke. He also allegedly “annexed” routes in Highflats, Jolivet, Umzinto and Umzimkhulu, all on the South Coast.
The Zamokuhle Long Distance Taxi Association, which has 62 taxi operators and 300 taxis, lodged an urgent interdict in the Durban High Court to prevent Mfundo and Sonke from operating on their route between Durban and Port Shepstone.
Despite the court order directing Mfundo and Sonke to leave the Brook Street rank and allow Zamokuhle to operate, they continued to use it.
However, despite its controversial and bloody involvement in the lucrative South Coast route, Sonke now wants to run it – and this time they seem to want to do it legally. They also want to operate several others elsewhere in the province.
Sonke has made an application to provincial transport authorities to run the following 10 routes:
Durban to Impendle;
Durban to Underberg;
Durban to Umzimkhulu;
Durban to Ixopo;
Durban to Riverside;
Durban to Umzinto;
Durban to Port Shepstone;
Durban to Jolivet;
Durban to Highflats, and
Durban to Richmond.
In its submission, Sonke argues that there is no association licensed to operate on these routes from Durban; they are only licensed to run to Durban.
Sonke argues that it already holds licences to operate other routes and has been doing so successfully for almost 30 years.“There is no reason to doubt we would be able to, similarly, operate the service on the routes that are the subject of these applications in a manner that would be satisfactory to the public,” it writes in its application documents, which have been seen by Times Select.
Sonke has also argued in its submission that the applications should be granted because it has remained pending before the provincial regulatory authority for more than 25 months, “which, by [its] own standards is abnormally long”.
The decision on the applications is expected on Wednesday...