Outrage after irate cop wounds man for ‘bad driving’

Zandile Mbabela and Brian Hayward mbabelaz@avusa.co.za

A NELSON Mandela Bay taxi driver was lucky to escape with his life yesterday after a policeman flew into a rage over his driving and allegedly slapped him in the face, pistol-whipped his “guardtjie” and then shot the driver in the head.

Terrified taxi passengers recounted how they had been travelling near Kwazakhele’s Njoli Square yesterday morning when the policeman – who has not been named pending the outcome of an investigation into the incident – pulled over Khanya Tshona, 22, for “driving s**t”, before trying to confiscate the keys of the vehicle.

In a series of events which led to Tshona’s shooting, his guardtjie (assistant), Vuyisa Sidlwayi, 22, was allegedly pistol-whipped by the policeman after he tried to help recover the taxi’s keys.

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As a crowd formed around the feuding three, a warning shot was fired by the nervous policeman, which saw the crowd disperse as people ducked for cover, and Tshona and Sidlwayi returned to the taxi. But, according to eyewitnesses, as the taxi pulled off, the policeman, who had been making his way back to his police van, turned and allegedly fired another shot, which grazed Tshona’s forehead.

The policeman is now being investigated by the Independent Complaints Directorate (IDC) for attempted murder, while Tshona and Sidlwayi have been arrested for attempted robbery. The policeman has alleged the pair tried to wrestle his firearm from him after he pulled over the taxi.

Although Tshona was recovering in Livingstone Hospital yesterday evening, The Herald was not allowed access to him as he was under arrest.

Police spokesperson Captain Andre Beetge said Sidlwayi was being held at the Kwazakhele police station.

When a Herald team arrived shortly after the shooting, a large crowd of onlookers had formed along Njoli Road, baying for the policeman’s blood.

“The guardtjie tried to intervene, but was whacked on the side of the head with a gun [by the policeman],” said passenger Nozuko Ndohlo, who had been making her way to KwaDwesi.

“It was totally unnecessary because the [taxi] guys weren’t even violent or rude this time around.”

Another passenger, Nosithembele Ngcolomba, said the policeman had been confrontational from the start and “would not reason with anybody”.

“[The policeman’s] partner told him to ‘let it go’ and so did the woman passenger they were with in the police van. But he just wouldn’t,” Ngcolomba said.

Four eyewitnesses said that at this stage a crowd had started to gather. They said the policeman had fired a shot into the air to disperse the crowd.

Another eyewitness, who did not give his name, said he had gone to investigate after hearing the first shot. He saw the taxi driver returning to his car and driving off, while the policeman walked back to his van.

“As he was about to reach the van, he turned and fired a shot at the taxi, which then swerved and landed on the pavement.”

Passengers Ndohlo, Ngcolomba and Nandipha Piti said they had heard a loud bang and seen the driver’s head turn. “People started screaming and crying. It was just chaos,” Piti said.

Onlookers hurled insults at the policeman, who was walking up and down the crime scene before being loaded into one of the police vehicles.

McDonald Ntantiso, head of the Border Alliance Taxi Association (Bata), lambasted the police over the “needless shooting”. “What caused the police to shoot at people who were not armed, instead of calmly sorting out a problem? These are people they [police] are supposed to protect,” Ntantiso said.

Beetge said the policeman claimed the taxi had been pulled over for reckless driving. “The policeman alleged the driver and his assistant had tried to take his firearm. In the ensuing scuffle, the policeman shot one suspect.”

He said a case of reckless driving had been opened against Tshona, and he and Sidlwayi had been arrested for attempted robbery. The policeman had not been arrested, but his firearm had been sent for ballistic testing. Action would be taken if he was found guilty by the IDC.

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