‘It was so close. They were stoning us. They were going to kill us. If it had not been for that truck driver they would have burnt us to death.”
This was how truck driver Honey Magomola recalled his escape from a mob of striking truck drivers whose violent and deadly protests hit Tshwane on Thursday.
Magomola was a crew member on board a grocery delivery truck on its way from Olifantsfontein to Irene when the mob launched their attack on Glen Main Road near Pinedene train station, destroying two trucks.
The attack brings the number of trucks destroyed this week to 20, with 16 people injured and more than 30 arrested.
The 40-strong mob were taking part in a countrywide freight truck drivers strike, with strikers assaulting and forcing non-striking drivers off roads to join their protests.
Members of the Transport and Allied Workers Union of SA, the SA Transport and Allied Workers Unit, Motor Transport Workers Union and the Professional Transport Workers Union, who have been on strike since Monday, are demanding a 20 percent wage increase over the next two years.
The well-orchestrated protest action by 65 000 truck drivers has strikers using the railway system to move between areas to carry out their attacks, so avoiding police roadblocks set up in hotspots.
The strikers are believed to be using SMSes to co-ordinate their attacks, telling each other which trains to catch, which routes non-strikers are using and where police are stationed.
Magomola said they were driving when the truck in front of them suddenly stopped.
“The driver from the truck in front of us was running to us screaming for us to run.
“There were people everywhere. Suddenly the other driver’s truck was burning. As we tried to get out the strikers surrounded us.
“They were screaming that they were going to kill us. They said we were traitors and must die.
“We tried to get out but they blocked the doors. The driver who had run towards us helped us out.
“When we got out we ran. We could hear the strikers running behind us. We got someone to stop and take us to the police station, but when we came back our truck and goods had been destroyed,” he said.
Magomola said he could not understand why the strikers wanted to kill them.
“What have we done to them? I just want to make money so I can feed my family. If I go on strike I can’t. I will lose my job and who will then feed my family?” he asked.
Magomola’s rescuer, Jacob Muridzo, said he was working because if he stopped he would not have a job.
“I have a family and I have to support them,” he said.
Recalling the rescue, Muridzo said he was not a hero.
“When I saw the strikers I ran as fast as I could and tried to help as many of the trucks drivers as I could.
“I was not going to let them drive into those people. If I had they would have died,” he said.
Police, on standby for possible strike violence, swarmed through the area using a helicopter and dogs to arrest 28 suspected strikers as they tried to escape through a nearby field and across a river.
“We were ready for them. We heard they would be using trains and were just waiting for them,” said a policeman.
Police spokesman Warrant Officer Duane Lightfoot said the 28 suspects faces charges of attempted murder, arson, theft and assault. – Pretoria News