Durban - Whether a prank or a wicked plan by thieves to rob motorists, the rock-throwing menace has snowballed in KwaZulu-Natal, especially in Durban, where officials have been called on to act decisively. However, authorities said the problem could not be resolved “overnight”.
Thus far, only one arrest has been made after at least seven incidents were reported across Durban in the aftermath to the fatal December 28 attack on Gauteng siblings.
Amina Haffajee, 16, and her brother Abdur Raheem, 7, died when a boulder thrown from a bridge, crashed through the windscreen of their vehicle while they were travelling on the N2, between Tongaat and Ballito, north of Durban.
Kirthan Pillay, 19, was the latest victim of rock throwing when youngsters launched missiles at his vehicle while he drove under the “Boys’ Town” bridge, near Tongaat, on Friday afternoon.
The incident happened during peak traffic flow. His windscreen was shattered but he was uninjured.
The victims in the other incidents reported they felt fortunate to have escaped with minor injuries and damage to their vehicles.
On Thursday, a 28-year-old suspect was caught by a Pietermaritzburg-based security company which was alerted via a local WhatsApp group about an attack from a bridge in Hilton.
Pietermaritzburg SAPS spokesperson Captain Gay Ebrahim said the suspect was expected to appear in Howick Magistrate’s Court.
But the DA spokesperson on transport in the province, Rafeek Shah, questioned the effectiveness of intelligence.
“It is a frightening trend of heinous crimes and has plunged us into a crisis situation.
“To date, we don’t know who attacked the Haffajee siblings or which area the attackers lived in, which points to a lack of intelligence on the ground by law enforcement officials.
“Whether this is a copycat trend or criminal syndicate, the suspects must be known within their communities, who will see and hear things,” Shah claimed.
Durban SAPS spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbhele said police were still investigating the case regarding the siblings and discussing further security plans, but in the interim, police were patrolling bridges considered to be crime hotspots.
Metro police officials were also surveying bridges, which has been “working well”, according to Superintendent Parboo Sewpersad, who said further plans would be reassessed.
Forming “task teams” is believed to be the recommendation of government officials to resolve the rock-throwing phenomenon and bring perpetrators to book.
Transport, Community Safety and Liaison MEC Mxolisi Kaunda is set to convene a second meeting with mayors in the affected municipalities, and senior management of SA National Roads Agency Ltd to devise a long-term plan of securing bridges.
“We will also be discouraging the diabolic acts in our running themes and awareness campaigns on the road and community safety.”
Sanral’s Eastern Region design and construction manager Ravi Ronny said enclosing the thousands of bridges within the national road network would result in substantial expenditures, and called on law enforcement to eradicate criminal elements.
“We have always indicated that providing screens over bridges is not the single solution. Rocks can still be thrown onto the freeway from the embankments on both sides of the bridge.
“Sanral is not a law enforcement agency and we rely on the SAPS and the Road Traffic inspectorate to deal with the enforcement issues,” he said.
eThekwini deputy mayor Fawzia Peer has called for safety barriers and closed-circuit cameras to be installed over bridges in hotspots.
She said: “This cannot be done overnight as normal council processes will have to take place and will also depend on funding.”