THE family of a driver who on Friday was crushed to death by a Bulawayo-bound Greyhound bus have alleged off-duty police officers who mounted an illegal roadblock caused his death. Yesterday they told The Chronicle that the five police officers fled after realising Mr Bongani Mpofu (44) had been mortally wounded when the bus went down on him as he attended to a tyre puncture at Beitbridge Border Post.
Officials said the tragedy occurred at around 1PM when the officers were searching the bus. The driver was trapped as he attempted to put a second vehicle jack, when the first one gave in. Border authorities said the driver was later pulled out by some travellers and taken to Beitbridge District Hospital where he was pronounced dead upon admission.
The Chronicle yesterday caught up with Mpofu’s brothers, Thembelani and Mbambeleli, who are angry at the circumstances that led to the death of their sibling. “We’ve established that the bus had gone through immigration procedures and had exited the border when a group of men in plain clothes materialised from the blue and ordered the bus to pull over,” said Mbambeleli.
“We’re told that my brother told them that company policy didn’t allow them to park in such small spaces and they threatened to arrest him. They demanded to search the bus. My brother and his assistant first protested saying Zimra officials had already searched the bus. Later, they said they could allow the cops to search the vehicle only if a larger space was available for them to properly park the bus. The police officers ordered them to head back to the border.”
Mbambeleli said the cops ordered Mpofu to park the bus near a truck stop within the border perimeter fence. “The police entered the bus and searched it, purportedly looking for smuggled goods which they failed to find. It was during the search that my brother noticed that the bus had a puncture because it had been parked on top of protruding metals,” he said.
After failing to find the suspected smuggled goods, said Thembelani, the officers switched goalposts and said they must have picked the wrong bus. It was at that point, Thembelani added, that Bongani went under the bus to attend to the puncture and was crushed. “The police officers immediately fled the scene. They didn’t even attempt to remove him from under the bus,” he said.
He said officials at the border informed the family the cops were genuine officers but were allegedly off-duty when they carried out the search. The two brothers said if what they said was an illegal roadblock had not been mounted, their brother would still be alive. Matabeleland South police spokesperson Inspector Philisani Ndebele said he was not aware of the circumstances surrounding Mpofu’s death.
“We haven’t received communication on that. We don’t have those details. I’d urge the company and the relatives to approach the police regarding this matter so we can investigate,” he said. A Greyhound official yesterday said the company was exploring ways to pursue the case with the police, without causing friction.
Mpofu is survived by wife, Nomsa and children Bongile (10), Buyisile (6) and Buzile (3). It is
anticipated that he will be buried tomorrow. His family says it is poorer without him as he was its breadwinner, role model and father figure.
Mpofu’s close friend Admire Sibanda said: “He was a hardworking, dedicated family man, a good leader and advisor to all that crossed his path. It is both surprising and sad that such a great man is no more.” chronicle