Whinsley Masara/ Codelia Mondela, Chronicle Reporters
A Bulawayo man was shot on the ear after he withheld R10 from highway robbers who hijacked buses, omalayitsha and two private motorists between Musina and Kranskop along Musina- Johannesburg Highway over the weekend.
The robbers in groups of four and five were allegedly staggered along the highway on Saturday night to the wee hours of Sunday.
Victims who spoke to The Chronicle on condition of anonymity said the robbers shot the tyres of the vehicles and buses and pounced on the vehicles after they stopped.
They said in some of the incidents, the robbers boarded vehicles as passengers and suddenly produced guns, forcing drivers to stop.
A source said Intercity Bus Company that also trades as Eagle Liner, Tombs Motorways, Shumba Logistics Bus Company, two Quantum vehicles and two private vehicles were stopped and robbed while about three other vehicles fled as the highway robbers fired shots.
Intercity Bus Company confirmed the hijacking while a Tombs Motorways representative denied that passengers in their bus were victims.
A passenger in the Intercity bus bound for Johannesburg from Bulawayo relived the horror yesterday.
“The robbers were stationed in some bushes by the road side. They shot the tyres on our bus around 3:40 AM on Sunday,” said the passenger, who still appeared to be in shock.
The passenger said the two drivers disembarked to check the tyres.
“Four men armed with guns appeared from the darkness and pounced on them. They force marched them back into the bus. They fired a shot that jarred sleeping passengers awake,” said the passenger, who insisted on anonymity.
The passenger said the gunmen ordered passengers not to look at them.
“They took someone’s bag and ordered us to throw our cash inside. It was very scary as they moved down the row of seats and we meekly deposited our cash into the bag. I lost R200. Other passengers lost huge sums of money because they were going to the neighbouring country for shopping,” said the passenger.
The passenger said as the robbers were about to disembark, one of them said they should collect cellphones as well.
“They returned and started searching passengers. In fear, most surrendered their phones and tablets,” the passenger said.
“It was then that they found a passenger who had R10 in his pockets. The gunmen were furious. They shouted at him and asked why he had withheld the money when they were going around with the bag. One of them fired a shot that grazed his ear. Some passengers screamed and people became more cooperative,” narrated the passenger.
“The gunmen jumped off into a waiting vehicle that sped off.”
A driver at one of the bus companies said the robbers laid siege on the highway and prowled around for close to 10 hours, robbing motorists.
“I heard that a Shumba Bus Service bus that was hired by Intercity was hit by passengers who suddenly produced guns. They boarded the bus in Zimbabwe and we think they got guns from accomplices in Musina. After the heist, their colleagues picked them up. The same thing happened with a Tombs Motorways bus, two omalayitsha and some smaller passenger vehicles,” said the driver who declined to be named.
A source at Intercity Bus Company yesterday said six passengers had arrived home.
“All passengers who were in the Intercity bus were offered complimentary tickets to return home after their losses.”
The manager of Eagle Liner Luxury Services, Mr Brian Munemo confirmed that one of their buses was attacked on Saturday night.
“The hijacking happened a day before yesterday (Saturday), but I cannot give any more information,” he said.
The manager of Tombs Motorways Bus Company, Mr John Chitana said none of their buses coming from SA was hijacked.
South African police requested questions in writing but had not responded by the time of going to print.
Bus hijackings in the neighbouring country have increased over the past few years.
In June 2016, a bus travelling to Johannesburg was attacked by three gunmen who stripped the passengers of money and cell phones between Polokwane and Mokopane towns. The Intercape bus was travelling from Harare headed for Johannesburg in Gauteng province.
In July the same year, a passenger on a Mzansi Express bus from Zimbabwe to South Africa allegedly wrestled a gun from a robber and shot him dead, when four armed men raided the vehicle in Musina.
One of the hijackers allegedly shot the passenger on the shoulder as they fled from the scene, at around 3AM.
In April 2015, 48 Zimbabweans endured a four-hour hijack horror aboard an Intercape bus in SA. Four pistol and rifle-wielding men got away with cash, cell phones and gadgets worth tens of thousands of dollars when they commandeered the Bulawayo/Johannesburg bus near Hammanskraal at around 3.30AM.
In May the same year, two more Zimbabwean buses were attacked by armed highway robbers in South Africa. The buses, Eagle Liner and Citiliner, which were headed for Johannesburg, were attacked within two days.