Two armed robbers ambushed a Harare-bound Croswell Logistics cross-border bus in northern South Africa at around 10am yesterday and robbed 58 passengers of cellphones and cash.
The driver, Mr Thembane Ngwenya, escaped death by a whisker after two bullets missed him.
The attack occurred when the bus stopped along the N1 Highway between Zebediella and Polokwane as the driver sought to check on a disturbing mechanical noise.
“This is a miracle. I survived by God’s grace. Two bullets missed my head at close range,” said Mr Ngwenya.
“We were travelling between Zebediella and Polokwane when I heard a disturbing sound while I was about to descend a slope. I asked the co-driver about the sound and he said he was not aware of where it was coming from. I then failed to engage into other gears. The door then swung open on its own. I stopped the bus after a few metres and as we were trying to investigate, one of the robbers shot at me.
“He tried again and missed. When he tried for the third time, the magazine fell out of the pistol. He told me that I was a very religious and pulled me out of the bus before he demanded R40 000 which I had been given by a client in Johannesburg. I insisted I had no money and he threatened to shoot me in the leg.”
Mr Ngwenya said when his colleague tried to find out what was happening, he was assaulted, pulled out of the bus and ordered to lie down before one of the robbers got onto the bus.
Co-driver Mr Pierson Zano said the robber ordered everyone off the bus and told them to surrender money and cellphones on their way out.
“They threatened to shoot anyone who resisted and after failing to get the money from Thembane (Mr Ngwenya), 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 (satchel) from one passenger and loaded money and cellphones. They searched the passengers twice,” he said.
Mr Zano said the pair vanished with his cellphone and R6000.
He said they suspected the robbers were working in cahoots with a passenger who had a fake passport who had tried to board the bus in Johannesburg.
One of the passengers, Mr Lloyd Zvorufura said: “I was seated near the front seat when they shot and dragged the driver outside. He is lucky to be alive. They insisted on him giving them R40 000 and they also took away money from everyone.
“Some passengers were assaulted with the butts of the guns for resisting. The criminals took my cellphone, R70 and US$100.”
Ms Kristle Moyo, who complained of pain in her legs, said she was injured after one of the robbers assaulted her repeatedly after suspecting that she had seen his face.
“He threatened to kill me while claiming that I had seen his face. He later ordered me to board the bus and not look back.”
Efforts to get a comment from South African police in Limpopo Province were fruitless yesterday.
Over 15 buses have been attacked by armed gangs on the N1 in the last 12 months.