Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau
THREE Zimbabwean cross-border buses and two trucks were yesterday reduced to shells by a fire in the Newton area of Johannesburg in South Africa.
A cigarette butt is believed to have triggered the inferno that burnt the buses, belonging to Munhenzva, Elite and Hi-Tech coaches.
The incident occurred at around 4PM along Main Street in Newton where most of the Zimbabwean cross-border buses are parked before they leave South Africa for Zimbabwe.
The trucks were carrying luggage destined for various towns in Zimbabwe including Gweru and Harare.
Zimbabwe’s Consul to South Africa, Batiraishe Mukonoweshuro said the exact cause of the fire was yet to be established.
“Indications are that the fire started from an Elite coaches bus which then spread to Munhenzva and Hi-Tech and the two trucks. However, no human life was claimed though property worth thousands of rands was reduced to ashes,” he said.
“We’re yet to establish the total value of the property which was destroyed. Our officers are still on the ground.”
Efforts to get comments from authorities at Munhenzva, Hi-Tech and Elite coaches were fruitless last night.
One of the witnesses identified only as Mai Kuda said the cause of the fire was still a mystery.
“It’s a shock how a cigarette butt can be said to have caused so much damage to three buses and trucks. I heard that there was fire here and rushed to check if they were any people I knew but fortunately nobody was hurt except groceries and various property which were damaged,” she said.
Of late there has been an upsurge in robberies targeted at Zimbabwean cross border buses outside Polokwane and Pretoria by criminals purporting to be South African police officers.
A Zimbabwean woman who works in Newton area, Tendai Zhou, said other bus crews had to drive away from the area as the fire raged on.
“The situation was terrible and we suspect that the fire was started deliberately by jealous people considering that most of the buses have been robbed along the N1 highway. In most cases we will be having more than 50 buses here especially those going to Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia,” she said.