- A group of more than 20 men attacked a Putco bus driver in Soshanguve, forced her off the road and hijacked the vehicle.
- The driver said she believed the group took advantage of the shutdown to target the bus.
- She said the men didn't even know how to drive the bus.
A Putco bus driver who was forced out of the vehicle by a group of more than 20 men carrying sticks and bricks in Soshanguve, Pretoria on Monday said she believed her attackers took advantage of the shutdown to launch the attack.
The 28-year-old woman said she was expecting to have a normal work day when the staff bus picked her up at home on Monday at 01:10. Instead, she was confronted by the group of men, who forced her bus off the road while she was driving along her route, and fled in the bus.
She said she was terrified because the group showed no sympathy for her as a woman.
READ | EFF shutdown: Putco halts operations after bus is hijacked, other buses stoned
"When I saw the mob, I told myself I'll be brave and face them. I tried to talk to them through the window. Some were understanding and some were not. I said to them, 'I'm a woman who's just doing my job; please don't hurt me'," she added.
The driver told News24 the group attacked and hijacked the bus shortly after she reported for duty.
According to the driver, whose name is being withheld for her safety, she has been working for Putco for the past year.
"It was around 02:15 when I left the starting point of my route. I had not even driven more than 500 metres when I saw a mob carrying bricks come through. Because it was still dark, I put the lights on to notify them that someone was on the bus."
"They said they won't hurt me and just wanted money. I told them I didn't have any. They then forced me out of the driver's seat. So, I pulled the handbrake and sat in the passenger seat."
The driver said the men struggled to drive the bus.
"I sat in the passenger seat watching them, wondering what was next, until I had the courage to ask to leave the bus. I was taking my chance and wanted to see if they'd agree, and to my surprise they did.
"They were not driving at high speed because I don't think they knew how to drive. I asked them if I could get off the bus, and they agreed. [So] I managed to jump off the bus safely without hurting myself," she added.
She said she feared for her safety.
The driver added:
She said most of the men were understanding, and that the three who got into the bus, only managed to drive it about 1km. Shortly after she got off the bus, the police arrived on the scene and most of the men fled. The three men in the bus jumped off the vehicle while it was in motion and ran away, causing it to ram into stones before stopping in a ditch.
"I suspect they were coming from a tavern and took advantage of [the situation and did] this because they knew [Monday] was the shutdown. They wouldn't have done what they did on another day," she added.
The driver said she assumed they came from a tavern because "they were not in the right state of mind".
She said police officers from Siyabuswa helped her and called for backup from officers at Dennilton police station. They escorted her from the scene to the Machipe depot.
Xulu said Putco reported the incident and many others that occurred during the shutdown to the command centre established by the government.
Xulu said buses were damaged in many parts of Gauteng. He said staff buses were the first to encounter blocked roads and intimidation as they attempted to collect bus drivers wanting to report for duty in the early hours of Monday.
"Drivers involved in the incidents will be referred for counselling," said Xulu.