GUNMEN OPEN FIRE ON 5 buses in peak hour

Sne Masuku

Sne Masuku

A disabled passenger was killed and hundreds of people left stranded when gunmen opened fire on buses in Esikhawini, northern KwaZulu-Natal, yesterday.

They shot at five buses belonging to the Ikhwezi bus service during peak hour - about 5am.

The buses were parked at the bus station, waiting for passengers to board, when the men in a bakkie opened fire on them.

A 49-year-old disabled passenger, Bernard Khumalo, was shot and killed at the scene, while one bus driver was wounded. He is in a serious condition in a local hospital.

Ikhwezi manager Fanie Joubert said operations would continue despite the shooting.

"Five buses were shot at," Joubert said. "Unfortunately a disabled passenger was killed and a driver was badly wounded."

He said his drivers were terrified and demanded police protection.

Police spokesman Vincent Mdunge said shortly after the incident angry bus drivers blockaded all roads into Mandlankala, which brought traffic to a complete standstill.

Mdunge said since blocking roads was a criminal offence, the police had impounded the buses. By late yesterday the police had still not released the buses.

But Joubert denied that buses had been impounded.

"Operations were compromised and could not continue because drivers were terrified, but I can confirm that not a single bus was impounded," Joubert said.

Mdunge insisted: "The buses have not been released to the bus company. Owners of the bus company will be arrested or the company will be fined before the buses are released."

Two assault rifles and 9mm pistol cartridges were found at the scene of the drive-by shooting.

Mdunge said the motive of the attack had not been established and no arrests had been made. One person told of how they "had to hide" when the shots were fired.

"We could not see the attackers," he said. "They fired without warning. It was still dark. We are afraid. This is not good."

l Meanwhile, Durban Metro police have arrested more than 5000 motorists for speeding in June. They said on Monday they would continue with the clampdown.