Auxilia Katongomara Chronicle Reporter
FORTY eight Zimbabweans endured a four-hour hijack horror aboard an Intercape bus in neighbouring South Africa yesterday. Four pistol and rifle wielding men got away with cash, cellphones and gadgets worth tens of thousands of dollars when they commandeered the Bulawayo/Johannesburg bus near Hammanskraal at around 3.30AM yesterday.
No one was injured in the robbery.
The bus company confirmed the robbery yesterday.
Passengers, who were still struggling to come to grips with the ordeal, told The Chronicle that the hijackers impersonated police officers to stop the bus.
They said the robbers locked the drivers in a compartment in the bus and took the passenger list.
“I was asleep when I heard loud screams. At first, I thought the bus had been involved in an accident. I nearly fainted when I saw a man waving a pistol in my face and demanding cash,” said a passenger who identified herself as MaBhebhe.
She said the man took R8,000 which she intended to spend on shopping in the neighbouring country.
“He also took my Samsung Galaxy S4 and camera. Everyone was terrified as we thought it was a xenophobic attack. We had seen images of people being burnt alive or viciously slashed with pangas. I thought they were going to burn the bus with everyone inside,” said MaBhebhe.
Another passenger who declined to be named said passengers complied with the gunmen’s demands as they feared being shot.
“When they flagged down the bus they appeared as if they were police officers. We were surprised when they produced guns,” said the passenger.
“Before they got to me, I hid my phone and about R10,000 in my panties. I gave the gunman R200 and he demanded my phone.”
She said she told the man she did not have a cellphone and he used the passenger list to find the mobile number of her next of kin and called her.
“He introduced himself as an Intercape driver and asked my sister for my phone number.
“I was sweating fearing he was going to dial my number and the phone would ring. My sister refused to give him the number, demanding to talk to me instead. She thought we had been involved in an accident,” said the woman.
She said the armed robber cut the phone and moved to the next passenger.
Another passenger said he lost about R40,000 to the robbers.
The bus arrived at Park Station at 10 m, five hours later than the scheduled time.
The bus company said the bus was hijacked in full view of police officers.
“Intercape can confirm that on 21 April at 03:30am an Intercape coach with 48 passengers on board was held up at the Carousel Tollgate at gun point by four armed men.
“The coach was in-bound from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, with 48 passengers, 5 drivers and one host on board. The coach passed through police presence at the tollgate and stopped on the other side of the tollgate to do a driver change,” read the statement.
The scheduled changeover was done at the tollgate under the lights in line of sight of the police and tollgate staff. “The coach was approached by four armed men who then forced the coach driver to proceed to an area out of sight of the police and tollgate staff.
The armed men then robbed the staff and passengers of valuables, cellphones and IT equipment,” read the statement.
The bus company said the incident was reported to the police. “A case of armed robbery was opened against the four armed men by Hammanskraal police. The bus proceeded to Johannesburg after police took statements from the passengers and the bus crew.
Passengers were assisted with further travel arrangements upon arrival at Johannesburg station,” said the bus company.
The bus incident comes in the wake of xenophobia attacks on foreign nationals in South Africa .
Xenophobic attacks broke out in Durban after King Zwelithini’s statement last month that foreigners should leave the country.