Thupeyo Muleya, Beitbridge Bureau
TWO men armed with guns stormed a Zimbabwean-bound cross border bus and robbed 58 passengers and crew of thousands of rands, United States dollars and other property between Pretoria and Polokwane in South Africa yesterday.
The two suspects shot at the Croswell Logistics bus, which was on its way to Harare, on the NI highway near Zebediella, forcing the driver to stop.
They then ordered everyone off the bus before taking their money, cellphones and other property.
In an interview at Beitbridge Border Post, the bus driver, Mr Thembane Ngwenya, said he survived by a whisker after two bullets missed his head by inches.
“This is just a miracle. I survived by God’s grace. Two bullets missed my head at close range,” he said.
Mr Ngwenya said passengers were robbed of cellphones and thousands of rand by the two men whom they suspect had followed them from Johannesburg at around 10AM.
He said one of the suspects shot at the bus twice forcing him to stop since he could no longer engage the gears.
During the incident, the two men told him they wanted R40 000 which had been given to him by a client to send to his family in Zimbabwe.
“When we were between Zebediella and Polokwane, I was driving and heard a disturbing sound while I was about to descend an uphill,” said a visibly shaken Mr Ngwenya.
“I asked the co-driver about the sound; he was also unaware of the problem. Suddenly I could not engage other gears. The door then opened on its own.
“I stopped the bus after a few metres and while we tried to identify the problem, a man shot at me but narrowly missed my head. He tried again and missed. When he tried for the third time, the magazine fell off the pistol. The man told me that I was very religious and pulled me out of the bus and told me that he wanted R40 000 which had been given to me by a client in Johannesburg. I insisted I had no money to that effect and he threatened to shoot my leg”.
Mr Ngwenya said the bus had three crew members and when one of them tried to investigate, he was assaulted and pulled out of the bus and ordered to lie down.
Another suspect, he said, then entered the bus ordering everyone to surrender money and cellphones on their way out of the bus.
Mr Pierson Zano, the co-driver, said the suspects were menacing.
“They threatened to shoot anyone who resisted and after failing to get the money from Thembane, they came to me demanding the same money but failed to get anything.
“One of them searched all the passengers and took away a backpack from one passenger and loaded money and cellphones. They searched the passengers twice,” he said.
Mr Zano said the two men robbed him of his cellphone and R6 000 which the crew intended to use for fuel and border levies.
He said while they were in Johannesburg, they had refused to carry one passenger who had a fake passport whom they suspect was working with the robbers.
Mr Zano said they were later released when the criminals were convinced that they had no money since they had failed to meet the client who had wanted to send his money with them.
A passenger, Mr Lloyd Zvorufura, said he had lost his phone and money to the criminals.
“I was seated near the front seat when they shot and dragged the driver outside. He is fortunate to be alive. They insisted that he gives them R40 000 and they also took money from everyone.
“Some passengers were assaulted with the butt of guns. The criminals took my cellphone, R70 and US$100,” said Mr Zvorufura.
Ms Kristle Moyo, who complained about painful legs, said she was injured from repeated assaults by one of the suspects who said she had looked at his face.
“He threatened to kill me for claiming I had seen his face but later ordered me to board the bus and not look back,” she said.
Mr Ignatius Kadare said most passengers were still in a state of shock.
“They took US$300 and R1 700 and my cell-phone. This is disturbing but well, we just thank God no life was lost during the incident,” he said.
Efforts to get a comment from Limpopo Police were fruitless yesterday.
Armed robbers targeting Zimbabweans cross border buses in South Africa have come up with new ways of robbing their victims.
The Chronicle understands the criminals are now boarding buses using fake names or stolen Zimbabwean passports pretending to be genuine travellers. After boarding the buses mainly in Pretoria they then attack the passengers in bushes between Hamanskraal and Polokwane.
Of late Zimbabwean cross border buses have become a target of violent crimes between Pretoria and Polokwane.
Over 15 buses have been attacked by armed gangs in the last 12 months.