Horror crash after protesters stone bus

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IOL Pic si  Bus Crash 8400 INLSA Thembeka Lamont and her son Lindokuhle at the crash site. They watched in horror as a bus ploughed through their Khayelitsha home with four family members still inside. Picture: Leon Lestrade.

A young Khayelitsha woman was left desperately searching hospitals for her mother and grandfather, while another family mourned the death of the driver of a bus which ploughed through five homes when he lost control after being pelted with stones during a service delivery protest.

One of those homes belongs to the family of 25-year-old Thembeka Lamont, whose mother Irene and grandfather Thembinkosi Mgoqi were seriously injured in the tragedy in Site B at about 8.30pm on Friday. They were rushed to hospital and yesterday the desperate young woman was still battling to find them.

The horror crash, in which all the occupants of the houses and the passengers on the bus miraculously escaped with their lives, is a tragic offshoot of service delivery protests that have plagued the Peninsula almost daily since Thursday last week.

Premier Helen Zille and mayor Patricia de Lille have said the protests over the past two weeks have cost the city R2.6 million in traffic light repairs alone.

De Lille has also said that video footage has shown that, in at least one instance, actions of protesters “are being carefully marshalled and controlled by certain identifiable individuals”.

In Friday night’s incident, bus driver Andile Hoko, of Nyanga, was travelling on the Mew Way Bridge in Site B when protesters pelted the bus with stones, causing him to lose control. The bus veered off the road and ploughed through four shacks before coming to a stop when it hit a formal house.

Disaster Risk Management spokesman Wilfred Solomons-Johannes said Hoko died on the scene as a result of his injuries.

Two other people were critically injured and three more seriously injured. Of the passengers on the bus, 25 suffered minor injuries.

Yesterday morning the shocked community began the harrowing clean-up operation after the bus wreck was removed at about 5am.

Holding her one-year-old son, Lindokuhle, on the site of what was once her home, Lamont said she was desperate for news of her family. Her 12-year-old brother Anele was taken to the Red Cross Children’s Hospital and her father Daniel Sass to Tygerberg Hospital, but she had no knowledge of how they were. She had also not located her mother and grandfather.

“No one has told me anything. I don’t even know how any of my family is doing. I need to see them so I know if they’re fine.”

She recalled how she was with her son in their front yard when the bus came hurtling towards them.

“All I could think about was my family. My mother was asleep in her room and the others were watching TV. I looked away as I saw the bus going through our home.

“The ambulance arrived and took my family away. That’s the last time I saw them.”

Nosicelo Lutholi, the owner of the formal house into which the bus crashed, said she mistook the sound of the approaching bus as gunshots.

“I was in the kitchen, cooking and watching Generations when I heard what I thought were gunshots. I ran into the back room and saw the bus drive through my kitchen wall,” she said. “It stopped just as it broke through the wall of the back room. I don’t know what to do. No one besides the police has spoken to me.”

Bronwen Dyke, Golden Arrow spokeswoman, said Hoko’s family was too distraught to speak to the media. But she explained that their initial investigation had led them to believe that the service delivery protest may have directly caused the accident.

“We are still piecing the timeline together, but what we do know for sure is that stones were being thrown at the bus during a protest, and that the driver lost control.”

Witnesses confirmed that the bus was hit with stones during the service delivery protest.

This is the second attack on a Golden Arrow bus in the past week. Last Monday about 100 protesters stoned and set alight a bus in Gugulethu. A stone also hit the driver, lacerating his face.

Police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Andre Traut said in a statement that the bus also collided with another vehicle before veering off the road. That driver escaped unharmed.

Police were investigating reports that the bus had been stoned by “unknown suspects”, resulting in the accident, but no arrests had yet been made.

Yesterday De Lille sent her condolences to the affected families, while lashing out at those she said were “using service delivery protests in an attempt to make the city and province ungovernable, for political gain”.

She was referring to a threat from the ANC Youth League last weekend.

It said it would make the city ungovernable unless a string of demands were met within a week.

The threat included a vow to stop all residents from going to work, preventing all Golden Arrow buses and taxis from operating, and forcing all government cars off the roads.

Last Wednesday the DA lodged a criminal complaint of intimidation against the ANC, its youth league and allies following the threat.

“Those behind the service delivery protests are not interested in the well-being of the people, but incite violence solely for political benefit by making it appear the DA cannot govern,” De Lille said.

“This incident will not deter us from our goal of providing services to all the people of Cape Town. If residents are unhappy they are allowed to protest, but should do so peacefully.”

- Additional reporting by Sibongakonke Mama

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