We rob trucks because we are poor, say schoolkids in De Doorns

Cape Town – Schoolchildren were among the looters who raided a truck on the N1 in the Western Cape after the driver was hit by a rock hurled from a footbridge.

“Now we have nice winter jerseys, pyjamas and gowns,” one of the youngsters told TimesLIVE in De Doorns on Wednesday.

Pupils at a school separated from the N1 only by a chain-link fence topped with razor wire openly confessed to looting other trucks.

“We get to do this all the time. Any truck that breaks down here or stops here, we loot. We do it because we are poor,” said another child.

“Our parents are seasonal workers so things get really tough at home and we go either without food or money. I personally hoped this was a food truck … It would have made so much difference at home.”

On the other side of town, five people were appearing in court for allegedly looting the truck on Sunday.

Residents flocked to the police station and magistrate’s court, either to show support or to see for themselves who had been arrested.

Children at HF Van Cutsem Combined School appeared jubilant and bragged loudly about their looting when they saw journalists. Peering through the school windows, they told TimesLIVE the truck had been sent by God.

“Now we have nice winter jerseys, pyjamas and gowns,” said one. “It gets really cold out here in winter. My parents couldn’t afford to buy us any of these things, so I’m happy.”

Van Cutsem principal Mlungisi Bushwana, who has taught in De Doorns for 20 years, said he had seen distressing changes in what was once a safe and quiet community.

“In the past few years drug abuse has spiked in this community, and so has crime,” he said. “I don’t live in the area, but I’ve been hearing a lot about trucks and motorists who get attacked here on the N1 these days. It’s not the quiet community it once was.”

Akhona Goniwe, who moved to De Doorns five years ago, said gangsterism has increased in recent years. “It has certainly contributed to crime in this area,” he said.

“You can no longer safely stop there, even to buy from hawkers who sell grapes to motorists. Some pretend to be hawkers while their intention is to rob people.

“And it’s not only motorists and drivers that get attacked. Even pedestrians and we residents get robbed here.”

Simon Matobese from nearby Lubisi township said he was too scared to go out at night. “I used to walk from one end of the township to the another when I arrived here 17 years ago, but not any more. It’s become very violent,” he said.

Western Cape traffic chief Kenny Africa said two more trucks had been stoned in the same area since Sunday’s attack. TimesLIVE