A Golden Arrow bus and two train coaches were set alight during the early hours of yesterday morning, while two cars were also damaged, allegedly by striking municipal workers.
Just before 6.30 yesterday morning a group of about 200 people dressed in orange overalls and red shirts and armed with pangas and sticks, started throwing rocks at a Golden Arrow bus full of passengers, including schoolchildren, on Hlonela Road in Harare, Khayelitsha.
While the commuters were still in the bus, the mob threw petrol bombs at the vehicle, upon which it burst into flames.
Panicked passengers scrambled to get out of the bus, many losing or abandoning their bags inside as flames and smoke engulfed them.
Shaken passengers said the attackers even chased them down the road after they got out the bus.
Although shocked and angry, fortunately none of the approximately 25 passengers were injured.
“They started by throwing stones at us before they threw petrol bombs. We all rushed outside the bus and ran, they were chasing us. They even prevented pupils from going to school,” said shocked passenger Nothabo Malani (43).
Malani said in the scramble to get out the bus her bag with her ID, money, bank cards and monthly bus ticket was left inside the bus.
“The bus has nothing to do with the cleaners, I don’t understand why they burnt it.”
Harare resident Mzikayifani Gwenya (35), who stays opposite the bus station where the incident occurred, said, his car was damaged by stones and his rear lights and paintwork were damaged by the heat from the flames.
Another car was similarly damaged, but escaped destruction as helpful residents moved it as the owner was not at home.
Golden Arrow Bus Company spokesperson Bronwen Dyke said it cost R1 million to replace the bus.
Meanwhile, Metrorail is offering a reward of up to R25 000 for anyone with information leading to the successful conviction of those involved in setting three passenger coaches on the Khayelitsha-Cape Town line alight yesterday morning.
Metrorail regional manager Lindelo Matya said two coaches had been completely destroyed but no injuries had been reported.
“All commuters who were on board the train were immediately evacuated,” said Matya.
He avoided blaming the incident on striking municipal workers, saying it was suspected to be the work of “vandals”.
“Initial reports suggest that the fire may have been started deliberately, as three unknown males were witnessed coming out of the coach by commuters…”
He said damage was estimated at R9.5 million and the disruption of the train services on the line, which only resumed at 11am, had a “devastating” effect on commuters, he said, as demand was already exceeding supply.
Although Metrorail organised buses to ferry commuters as best they could, a number of commuters spoke of missed appointments and bad communication by Metrorail.
Busisiwe Nkosi (30) said she had been at the Khayelitsha train station for two hours before she and other commuters realised trains were cancelled.
“We heard that trains had been set alight. This was devastating because I had an early interview and I missed it,” said Nkosi.
Student Mthuthuzeli Mgalelo (18) said he was due to write an exam at school and his absence would be detrimental to his marks.
“Definitely I am losing all those marks. I am not angry at Metrorail but to the people who set the coaches alight, weren’t they thinking of us?” asked Mgalelo. – Nombulelo Damba and Sandiso Phaliso