Rock Throwing incidents are on the rise in KZN, with two tragic deaths as a result already. What is being done to stop these barbaric attacks?
Rock Throwing – or Stone Pelting – is a form of criminal assault. Rocks thrown at cars moving at high speeds along the highway has become a serious problem, particularly in developing countries.
A rock hitting your windshield while you’re going at 100km/h would certainly go right through the windshield. It may cause serious damage to you, your passengers and your vehicle. The driver could easily lose control of the car and crash into oncoming traffic or something else.
Rocks are usually thrown from an overpass or from high enough vantage points overlooking the road. That’s exactly what happened last month in Durban, and has continued to happen since…
A 7-year old boy, Abdur Raheem, and his older sister, Amina Haffejee, were both killed on 27 December. A large boulder was allegedly thrown from an overhead bridge on the N2 between Tongaat and Ballito, striking the car they were travelling in on the passenger side of the windscreen. The boulder reportedly crushed Amina where she had been seated in the passenger seat.
Both were pronounced dead on arrival at the Netcare Alberlito Hospital. Amina’s husband and driver, Ebrahim Haffejee, was uninjured.
It is understood that the Vereeniging family had been travelling north, away from Durban, when the incident occurred.
The tragedy prompted DA Member of Parliament, Dean Macpherson, to offer a R5000 reward for any information that would assist in bringing the reprobates responsible to justice.
Macpherson had spoken to the Independent newspaper, saying that the incident reignited memories of his stepmother’s own encounter with rock throwers. A few years ago, rocks were hurled at Debby Macpherson’s car while she was driving on the N2 between uMhlanga and Sibaya. She was fortunate to escape without injury.
Macpherson also invited others to contribute to his R5 000 reward. He encouraged businesses in the area to ‘come to the table.’
“I have been extremely saddened after the death of the two young children. This has to be one of the most barbaric incidents I have ever come across and I cannot stand by idly while these heartless killers roam the streets.”
With the help of corporates and individuals, the reward has since grown to R250 000.
“The response has been overwhelming,” said Macpherson. “With many appalled this could have happened to this family.”
The police, however, are yet to make any arrests.
According to Umhlali SAPS spokesperson, Vinny Pillay, another rock had been thrown from the same bridge barely an hour before the death of the siblings.
Another incident occurred a few days later, when Aliza Cilliers narrowly survived after a rock was thrown at her car while travelling near the airport. It appears she had been passing beneath the bridge when the rock was thrown at her car, missing the windscreen and striking the side window.
This past weekend saw a 26-year old man sustain minor injuries after a large rock was thrown from the first bridge after the Tongaat toll plaza on the N2 northbound. The large rock passed through the passenger side of the windscreen, hitting the driver in the shoulder and landing in the passenger seat.
He was taken to the hospital by paramedics and discharged the next day.
The Independent also reported that a rock was thrown from the Tollgate Bridge, hitting 77-year old Dorian Kahlberg’s vehicle.
Following that, Shiven Singh and his fiancée were travelling along the N3 near Brickfield Road when somebody flung a rock at his vehicle. The rock, fortunately, did not enter his car and the couple were unharmed.
“Coincidentally, we were talking about the attacks when it happened,” said Singh. “I heard a loud explosion and there was glass everywhere.”
Singh stated that they had approached the metro police for assistance, but the officers did not investigate. No surprises there.
“I have not reported the matter to police because I don’t have faith they will find the suspects,” he said.
Throughout the world, stone pelting has commonly been associated with the troublesome youth. In South Africa most incidents are no different, but there are other things to keep in mind, as well.
The throwing of rocks is a typical ruse carried about by lowlife criminals in an attempt to get drivers to stop their cars, in order to hijack them. Other variations may include the rolling of burning tyres in front of the car or leaving oranges pushed full of nails lying around in the middle of the road.
According to Dean Macpherson, it is pretty clear that we have a criminal syndicate operating in the Tongaat area. The initial hopes were that, if the culprits are part of a group, one of them would come forward to claim the reward. Thus far, though, incidents have only risen.
“The police need to act now,” he said. “They cannot sit and wait to collect bodies.”
The deaths last month sparked discussions about covering our bridges over major freeways with fences. SANRAL, however, have said this just isn’t possible. We have thousands of bridges crossing the national highways in our country. To cover them all with fences, to prevent hooligans from casting rocks from them, would require sufficient capital.
Though we are loathe to agree with SANRAL, who wasted so much money on the e-toll debacle, they have a point.
Putting fences or screens up on all our bridges won’t prevent these criminals from just casting their rocks from the embankments on both sides of the bridge. What we need, then, is better law enforcement.
To make a contribution to the reward, contact Macpherson on 083 776 0202 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have information regarding this crime, contact either Macpherson or the Umhlali Police Station at 032 947 990.
The South African National Civic Organisation (SANCO) has condemned these barbaric incidents and called upon the KZN authorities to take extraordinary measures in order to curb the attacks.
SANCO spokesperson, Jabu Mahlangu, had the following to say:
“Deployment of road rangers to monitor movements on bridges including potential threats and perpetrators, installation of surveillance cameras as well as flood lights on affected bridges will save lives as part of eradicating the heinous phenomenon.”
He further stated that the incidents require immediate and drastic action, in order to send ‘an unequivocal message to perpetrators.’
“A task team must be established to ensure that no effort is spared to ensure the safety of road users whose lives are threatened by mindless and heartless anarchists who have no regard for human lives.”
The SAPS have urged victims to report any incidents which may occur. They have also advised drivers to switch lanes, if safe and convenient, just before passing beneath a bridge. If an incident should occur, they have advised drivers not to stop their vehicles, but to continue onwards toward the nearest place of safety.
Since then, Deputy Mayor of the eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality, Fawzia Peer, has stated that actions have been taken. A directive has been given to the Transport Authority to erect steel cages on the bridges around the city. They will also be installing surveillance cameras.