The South African Catholic Bishops’ Conference decried Wednesday a recent series of taxi driver murders and encouraged the government to bring the criminals to justice.
“It is clear that there is a serious problem in the Taxi Industry that needs an immediate response,” the bishops wrote July 24.
“AS [sic] the Catholic Church we implore the government, the relevant authorities and the taxi associations to destroy this demon of viciousness and slaughter.”
Rivalries between taxi associations in South Africa have occurred in the past. Reportedly, tensions develop between groups of taxi drivers aiming to access particular routes. Minibus taxis are among the country's most popular forms of transport.
One driver was killed July 24 in Springs, 30 miles east of Johannesburg. Another was shot July 23 in Alexandra, immediately north of South Africa's largest city.
A massacre occurred July 21, when members of Ivory Park Taxi Association from Gauteng province were attacked on the way back from a colleague’s funeral. The minibus was shot up on the R74 road between Colenso and Weenen in Kwa-Zulu Natal.
In the attack, 11 people were killed immediately and another died later at hospital, according to Times Live. Three men were also critically injured and only two men escaped unharmed.
Another driver had been killed July 19 in Johannesburg, and in Cape Town, 10 were killed in one weekend in May.
“For years now the Taxi Industry in the country has been mired in violence, resulting in killings, including the killing of the innocent people who depend on taxis for transport,” wrote the bishops.
Taxi services are a major source of transportation in South Africa, the bishops said, noting that the service “is in danger of being clouded in an aura of criminality.”
“The church believes that the government is capable of addressing the problem and uprooting it totally if it could concern itself with ruling the country, putting the lives of ordinary people on the top of their agenda.”
“It is not enough for those in power to condemn taxi violence. It is time that serious and radical measures should be put in place to make South Africa a safe place to live in.”
The bishop offered their condolences to those affected by the violence and encouraged all citizens to co-operate with the authorities.
“We convey our sincere condolences to the victims of violence and crime in the country. We invite all citizens to co-operate with the security authorities in identifying and rooting out murderers.”