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 on Friday.
One of the hijackers allegedly shot the unnamed passenger on the shoulder as they fled from the scene, at around 3AM.
A passenger said the gang got away with R22,100, $80 and cellphones as armed robberies on buses carrying Zimbabweans to South Africa intensify. One of the cellphones was allegedly found in a bush near the scene.
The robbery allegedly occurred while the driver was taking a nap in a restroom at Sasol Service Station.
A manager at the station, Mr Stewart Khumalo, yesterday said he had received a report about the shooting from workers who were on duty.
One of the passengers, Mrs Samukeliso Mpofu, told The Chronicle that the bus was carrying 22 Zimbabweans.
“The bus had stopped for recess and refuelling at Sasol garage in Musina when the robbers materialised from the dark and pounced,” said Mrs Mpofu.
She said a man carrying a gun stationed himself outside the bus while two others stood at the door, just inside.
“A fourth man who was also carrying a gun came into the bus and ordered everyone to hand over cash and other valuables,” she said.
The one inside, said Mrs Mpofu, systematically moved through the bus and had robbed three people when he met resistance.
“The fourth passenger, a man, refused to hand over his belongings and started fighting with the robber.
“The other robbers shouted at their friend to drag the passenger outside the bus so they could shoot him. The hijacker managed to wrestle the passenger out of the bus,” said Mrs Mpofu.
She said other passengers were paralysed with fear.
“We watched helplessly and couldn’t help the man,” said Mrs Mpofu. “The brave man continued tussling with the robbers outside and the gun discharged. We thought the passenger had been killed. As we waited in terror for the robbers to return into the bus to kill us all, we heard them shouting that their friend was dead.”
She said the two robbers who did not have guns barked instructions at their armed colleague to shoot the passenger.
Another passenger on the bus said: “A second shot rang out and we saw the passenger drop to the ground. The robbers fled into the darkness. We were relieved to see our fellow passenger still moving,” said a man who declined to be named.
Officials at Mzansi Express in Bulawayo yesterday declined to comment.
They referred questions to their spokesperson in South Africa, Mr Dylan Mangena who said he was yet to get more information about the incident.
“There’s a lot that has been happening the past three weeks and I’m yet to acquire more information. Try getting in touch with the management of Sasol garage,” he said.
The Sasol garage manager, Mr Khumalo said:
“The robbery occurred at dawn on Friday. A robber was shot in the chest and died. One passenger was hospitalised and is in a stable condition.”
However, he said police indicated none of the passengers were robbed.
South African police spokesperson Colonel Ronnel Otto could not be reached for comment as her mobile phone rang unanswered.
Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to South Africa Mr Isaac Moyo was also not answering his phone.
Last month, a mob allegedly burnt an Eagle Liner bus transporting 21 Zimbabweans from Bulawayo to Johannesburg and robbed them of their valuables.
The unruly crowd was allegedly protesting the ruling ANC’s decision to field Ms Thoko Didiza as the party’s mayoral candidate for Tshwane in the forthcoming local government elections.
In April last year, 48 Zimbabweans endured a four-hour hijack horror aboard an Intercape bus in that country. 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. No one was injured in the robbery.
In May the same year, two 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 a space of two days.