Journalist Mweli Masilela was shot in the face with a rubber bullet on Monday 29 June. Masilela was unfortunately caught in the crossfire between police and taxi drivers in KaNyamazane, Mpumalanga. 

Masilela took to Twitter after the incident posting pictures of police officers and his cheek which was dripping with blood. He captioned the two photos saying: 

“Just got shot while covering the Taxi Shutdown in KaNyamazane in Mpumalanga. Police fired rubber bullets just a few minutes after arriving in the area to disperse taxi drivers who were blocking the road leading to the township.”

WATCH: TAXI SHUTDOWN IN MPUMALANGA 

Protests kicked off between frustrated taxi drivers and police in Mpumalanga on Monday 29 June. According to Masilela, police started firing rubber bullets in order to disperse protesting taxi drivers. 

Drivers have been protesting against lockdown regulations and in some cases, transporting commuters at 100% capacity when they should be operating at 70%.

The industry feels that it cannot sustain itself while taking the regulations into account and, therefore, has no choice but to defy them. 

According to Mpumalanga News, the city centre came to a standstill after police were deployed to Mbombela rank. This, after drivers, proceeded to fill their taxis to 100% following a call from the South African National Taxi Association’s (Santaco).

A local taxi operator, Thokozane Zulu, told Lowvelder:

“We are losing money and can’t pay our monthly car instalments. I have not been able to pay for my taxi for the past two months. The car dealerships have not granted us any payment holidays, so it is really stressing us out. That is why we have decided to carry 100% capacity,” he said.

Social media users have posted images and videos of taxis blocking roads, burning tyres and a heavy police presence. 

MBALULA WARNS THOSE DEFYING LOCKDOWN REGULATIONS 

Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula, on Monday, held a long-awaited press briefing. Although Mbalula encouraged taxi associations to adhere to lockdown regulations, he said those defying them would have to be dealt with by law enforcement. 

“Where the law is deliberately being broken, the state and its authority must be exerted. South Africa is not a banana republic, we cannot allow a state of lawlessness where people dare government and say that they are going to render this unworkable and ungovernable,” said Mbalula. 

Mbalula, did however, stress that the problem could be resolved. Mbalula said there’s no need for a “collision” for something that could be fixed.

“Can the taxi industry promote anarchy and bring the country to a standstill? Yes, they can. Can the law be exerted with the authority of the state? Yes, there will be a collision. Over what? Over something that we can resolve.”

“That is completely unnecessary. Collision over what? Over 100% [capacity], over interprovincial travel?”

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Presh JM Reporter

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