President Jacob Zuma, for the first time, spoke out about the senseless killings of taxi operators and commuters in the prolonged taxi wars engulfing the Mthatha to Lusikisiki areas and the Border region since last year.
Zuma was addressing thousands of people at the Human Rights Day national celebrations in King William’s Town yesterday.
This, just five days after the state and police decided to shut down the R61 route between Mthatha and Lusikisiki for a period of six weeks from Thursday last week.
The president promised that relevant government departments and the security cluster were attending to the matter, which has so far claimed more than 20 lives.
“The constitution says we have a right to security. We are thus very concerned [as government] about the high levels of crime in some communities,” Zuma said.
“I have also been alerted to the problem of high crime rates in areas such as Lusikisiki and Mthatha, where taxi violence has tragically claimed a few lives. Police and relevant departments are attending to these incidents.”
Zuma also hinted that his anticrime road show might be heading to the area soon to listen to residents.
He said South Africans needed to accept first that crime in the country was a problem and then work hard to root it out.
Close to 50 people have been arrested in connection with the assassinations of taxi owners, drivers and innocent bystanders.
The president’s keynote address at the Victoria Grounds was eclipsed by a residents’ protest against weeks of power cuts at the Bhisho Park residential area.
Scores of residents in the township, located about 5km from Victoria Grounds where Zuma was speaking about human rights, blockaded the R63 with burning tyres and stones, saying their right to access to electricity was being violated after weeks of no power.
Zuma’s speech touched on issues of land, poverty, radical economic transformation, racism and crime.