Johannesburg - When Stephen Rodgers’ car hit a rock, it went airborne and landed on its wheels, and one of them disintegrated on the N14 highway near Muldersdrift on Sunday night.
After hitting another rock, he realised the rocks were placed on the road intentionally. He continued driving for another 200m until the car came to a stop.
Although the police could not confirm any recent incidents, the modus operandi is similar to an old robbery trend.
In one of the incidents in 2008, Arren Mahabir, 32, of Northriding, was travelling to Durban with his fiancée when their car hit rocks placed across the highway between the William Nicol and Malibongwe off-ramps, bursting one of the tyres.
The couple stopped to inspect the damage and were accosted by four men, one of whom shot Mahabir. The robbers fled with the couple’s belongings.
Joburg metro police spokesman Chief Superintendent Wayne Minnaar said no similar incidents had been reported to them recently. But he said that in the past few years, traffic officers had to patrol the freeways because these incidents were rife.
On Sunday, several other motorists had their cars damaged on the Krugersdorp highway just after passing the Muldersdrift off-ramp. It was not clear who had placed rocks across the road.
It was also not immediately clear if any of the motorists were attacked after they stopped because their cars had been damaged.
Rodgers, an executive from Ellerines Holdings, said boulders weighing between 30kg and 40kg had been placed across the road.
He said that in less than 30 minutes, there was commotion on the road as more motorists also had their cars badly damaged by the rocks.
Rodgers, who has raced cars for 30 years, said there was no way any motorist could miss them because the highway was dark.
“There are no lights on that highway. No matter how professional you are, you only see them when you have already hit them. You hit the rock at full speed, which causes extensive damage to the car. After hitting the second rock, I knew instantly this was something that was not random.
“I limped out of my car. I phoned my family members, asking them to come and help me because I could no longer drive my car. Next to me there was another driver who was in distress after his car was damaged by rocks,” he said.
Rodgers recounted how motorists stood in a group as they waited for their relatives and police to arrive at the scene.
“We congregated on the side of the road because we were not sure when the thugs were going to pounce. We had to be there for each other. We thought it would be better if it was a group of people,” he recalled.
He said police officers from a local police station later removed the rocks from the road.
“They said they were patrolling on the highways but admitted it was difficult to do it on a 60km stretch of road,” he said.
Rodgers said he felt very lucky to be alive. “It happened so quickly that you feel that your life is in your hands. I am very happy to be alive. It was like being in Afghanistan, There were pieces of cars everywhere,” he said.
Rodgers said he was so distraught on Sunday that he could not immediately open a case.
“I had to wait for my car to be towed away. After that I wanted to go home,” he said.
On Monday morning, he reported the matter in Kempton Park, where he lives.
Krugersdorp police spokeswoman Captain Appel Ernst said no incidents were reported in Muldersdrift. But she said Rodgers’s case would be transferred to Muldersdrift.