BETWEEN the squatter camp and the taxi rank lies a busy road with a pedestrian footbridge.
But the bridge is no safer than the road. When nyaope boys corner you, the choice is simple.
Hand over your cash – or jump to your death.
And to make matters worse, the nyaope thugs have long ago dismantled the steel railings of the bridge to sell for scrap metal.
Now, the terrified people of Empilisweni in Thokoza, Ekurhuleni who still use the bridge do so without shoes, cellphones or money.
The residents said the thugs demand
everything from phones to expensive shoes, and those who refuse are threatened with being dumped over the bridge into the traffic racing below. Residents said it is the only bridge over the busy main road near the station.
“There’s nothing we can do,” said Joyce Letere, who was a victim of mugging on the bridge.
“I was going to work when five thugs armed with knives grabbed my bag. They took R400 in cash and my brand new cellphone.”
Joyce said she has since starting using taxis to get to the station.
“It’s eating a lot of money from my pocket, but what can I do?
“I don’t want to die because I have young children to take care of.”
Joyce said she had opened a case at Thokoza
Police Station but cops haven’t arrested anyone. Johannes Bhengu said he decided to walk in a group after being robbed of his brand new Nike sneakers.
“We protect each other so these thugs don’t attack us. I also opened a case but because we don’t know who the thugs are, it is difficult for police to make arrests.”
Thabo Legong said two thugs once tried to take his cellphone but he put a fight. But he got enough of a fright to stop using the bridge.
Some residents have decided to take their lives in their own hands by walking across the railway tracks.
Residents have appealed to the municipality to install a metal barrier on the bridge to prevent thugs from throwing them on to the road.
Ekurhuleni municipal spokesman Themba Gadebe they would look into the matter.