Thursday, May 01, 2008

Gauteng violance come to Hluhluwe

May 02 , 2008
Zululand OBSERVER

Tourists terrified




The scene of the taxi shoot-out in the main street of Hluhluwe




Bullets flew through the air, with six injured being rushed to hospital

Tanya Waterworth

FOREIGN tourists were left reeling in shock when a violent gun battle between two rival taxi associations shattered the peaceful afternoon in Hluhluwe on Monday.
As shots rang out, injuring six, local and international visitors dived for cover when armed gunmen ran across hotel lawns and driveways.
The shoot-out took place at the Engen Garage following a dispute between the local taxi association and a Gauteng taxi group.
According to police reports, the Hluhluwe taxi operators claimed the Gauteng taxis were ‘stealing their passengers’.
One taxi driver and five innocent bystanders were caught in the volley of gunfire , which also allegedly involved taxi protection unit members.
Emergency services, including an EMRS helicopter rushed to the scene to attend to the victims, who were taken to hospital.
One man is reported to be in a critical condition and police have opened five attempted murder cases.

Condemned
The tourism industry has slammed the taxi violence for the negative impact it will have on tourism in Zululand.
General Manager of the Hluhluwe Hotel, Danie Smit said the ripple effect from the incident would be considerably damaging to SA’s reputation as a destination of choice.
‘Everyone was running into the hotel to try and hide as this wild west shoot-out broke out in our main street. ‘All our visitors will go home and relate this event to others.
‘With over 60 lodges in this area, the taxi industry must realise that the Hluhluwe and surrounding communities depend largely on tourism for survival.
‘Taxi owners put nothing back into our community.
‘They need to apologise to the community for this shocking event and start to get involved in the community,’ said Smit.
His sentiments were echoed by Chairman of the Elephant Coast Association, Craig Rutherford who highlighted that the Hluhluwe area was ‘pivotal’ to the tourism industry.
We are competing at an international level and against places such as Kruger Park and Cape Town.
‘Hluhluwe is a brand name for Zululand and we cannot afford to have our image tarnished.
‘Last year we had some crime incidents and the police were fantastic in shutting down those criminals.
‘Let's hope this is an isolated incident,’ said Rutherford.
KZN MEC Bheki Cele said he had been alerted as to the shooting and said police on the ground were currently investigating.
‘There has been a problem with this route for some time and police are tracking down those involved.
‘There is definitely a possibility that those without the correct papers will have their taxis impounded.
‘With regard to the taxi protection units, no-one is above the police when it comes to keeping law and order,’ said Cele.

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