After arresting 13 people, police were braced for retaliatory attacks, manning roadblocks into the town and barring taxis from entering. Extra buses, guarded by police, brought commuters in, and more than 200 officers were sent to the area in the wake of the incident.
Power struggles between taxi groups, the main means of transport for poor blacks, frequently lead to violence in urban areas of the country. Police have in recent months been trying to crack down on the poorly regulated and fiercely competitive mini-van companies.
The suspects will be charged with murder, attempted murder and other counts, said Bala Naidoo, a police spokesman. He said 24 weapons were found, including 9mm pistols, a semi- automatic rifle and shotguns, after the shoot-out on Thursday.
One of the victims was a town councillor of Richards Bay, a nearby industrial town. He had an interest in one of the two taxi associations, which were feuding over routes, Pieter Odendaal, the Empangeni town administrator said. He said trouble had been brewing for weeks, and officials were not surprised by the violence.