‘It’s Marikana all over again’

2015-07-09 06:00
PHOTO: ian carbutt

One of the truck drivers at the shooting described how gunmen attacked his colleagues in Mountain Rise during the early hours of yesterday morning.

PHOTO: ian carbutt One of the truck drivers at the shooting described how gunmen attacked his colleagues in Mountain Rise during the early hours of yesterday morning.

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“THIS is like Marikana all over again.”

This was the sentiment of striking Willowton Logistics employees who watched four of their colleagues being shot dead by unknown gunmen in Mountain Rise during the early hours of Monday.

Two men, identified as May ­Mofokeng (45) and Alfred Malinga (32), were shot dead and two others, Themba Mvelase (50) and Christian Masisi (45), sustained critical injuries when gunmen attacked eight men sleeping in their vehicles in a field near the Mountain Rise police station.

The men, who would not disclose their names for fear of victimisation, are part of a group of about 20 truck drivers who have been protesting outside ­Willowton Logistics offices in Ohrtmann Road for the past month.

The eight men live in other parts of the province and come to Pietermaritzburg on Sunday evenings, remaining in the city during the week to protest and sleep in bakkies in the field after­ concluding their protest action during the day.

Instead of returning home on Friday last week, as they had done every ­weekend for the past month, the men said they did not have enough money to make the journey back and decided to remain it the field.

According to four of the men who ­witnessed the shooting, they were ­awoken just before 1am by the ­“cracking” sound of gunshots.

The gunmen had made their way to the first of three bakkies that were parked next to each other, where three men were sleeping in the back under a canopy. The gunmen ­allegedly opened the canopy and shot at the three sleeping men, killing one.

A second man in the same vehicle died shortly afterwards.

One of the gunmen then approached the second vehicle and shot through the driver’s window at a man who was asleep in the passenger seat.He sustained a gunshot wound to the arm.

“I heard a gunshot and then the cries of the guy in front screaming that I need to take him to hospital,” said a man who was sleeping in the back seat ­behind the wounded passenger.

“I jumped from the back seat into the front seat and sped off to the police ­station to report what was going on.”

According to the man, the police only responded 15 minutes later.

The men in the third vehicle were ­unaffected by the shooting as the ­gunmen fled after the second vehicle took off towards the police station, which is less than 20 metres away.

“We slept near the station because we thought it would be safe,” one man said. “This was definitely an organised hit.”

The men said they would have to find alternate accommodation as they are afraid to return to the field.

ER24 spokesperson Paul Knoesen said when paramedics arrived they found one man dead and three critically injured.

Paramedics tried to resuscitate one of the men when he stopped breathing, but he was declared dead.

“The other two men were rushed to Grey’s and Northdale hospitals,” Knoesen said.

Willowton Group director Shoaib Moosa on Monday said the Labour Court had declared the strike unprotected and illegal. “If the workers do not return to work, they could potentially face dismissal. We are saddened at what has happened and we feel for our drivers, regardless of the situation.”

Pietermaritzburg police spokesperson Mthokozisi Ngobese said ­officers, including the Tracing Task Team attended the crime scene­.

“Officers combed the crime scenes to gain as much evidence as possible. The motive for the murder is unknown. However, investigations into the case will reveal why the deceased were shot,” Ngobese said.

Pietermaritzburg cluster commander Major-General Lucas Ngobeni appealed to the community to come forward with information that would result in the gunmen being apprehended. Anyone with information should contact Captain Pipes Haffajjee at 079 500 0264, or Detective Warrant Officer Nzuza at 072 516 8907

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