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By unknown | Mar 25, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Sibongile Mashaba

Sibongile Mashaba

When 47-year-old Dennis Ngobeni left his Meadowlands home for work yesterday, he thought it was going to be a normal working day.

Little did he know that he would have to risk his life to try and save his 60 passengers from the madness of striking taxi operators.

Ngobeni works for Putco and transports dozens of passengers from Soweto to Kraamville in Alexandra, Johannesburg, every morning.

"When we got to Marlboro Road, there was a traffic jam. We waited for about 20 minutes to manoeuvre. A man was handing out yellow T-shirts to a group of about 20 taxi operators.

"A few seconds later, taxi operators started stoning cars and busses. And suddenly my clothes were covered in glasses from broken windscreen and windows."

A brick that was used to break one of the passengers' window was still in the bus when Ngobeni visited the Sowetan office just before 10am yesterday. The windscreen was smashed, and one passengers' window was broken while the others had scratches.

"The windscreen is very strong. I cannot imagine what would have happened if it could be broken easily," he said in a hoarse voice.

He said all motorists tried to either get out of their cars and run away or drive off.

"There was no way any of us could get away from the traffic jam. Passengers started screaming, jumped out of the bus and ran for their dear lives. There was no telling what these taxi people would do.

"Why do they have to be so violent? Why can't they do it in a peaceful manner?" Ngobeni asked.

He said when he finally managed to get out of the life-threatening situation, he drove to Bramley police station for help.

"I was directed to a woman who asked me: 'why do you bus operators want to work when taxi people are on strike?' Other officers tried to talk to her, but she told them to shut up."

Putco marketing and communications manager Raphiri Matsaneng said they had received six reports of their busses being stoned.

"Our operations were affected. Drivers were stopped from transporting passengers."

He said one of their drivers was shot in the arm in Soweto. The driver was treated and released from hospital.

Metro police spokesperson Chief Superintendent Wayne Minnaar said all incidents relating to the strike would be investigated.


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