Thirty Malawians who were stranded in Benoni, South Africa for a month after the coach they hired malfunctioned returned home on Saturday.
As they recounted their ordeal, one could feel a chill run down the spine. They said they went days without a bath, slept on the roadside, hungry and that one woman gave birth right there helped by South African paramedics.
Speaking on behalf of the group in Lilongwe, Simon Kamanga from Mzimba said their colleagues hired a coach on May 8.
He said the coach started malfunctioning barely hours after departure from Johannesburg on May 9.
Said Kamanga: “The first problem was a clutch plate and we contributed money to buy a new one. After the mechanic had fixed it, the coach only moved 20 kilometres before the head gasket started giving problems and we had to stay for three days before a new one was found.
“When it was fitted, we [again] only covered 20 kilometres before a water pipe burst and we stayed for almost six days before we found another vehicle to tow the coach up to Benoni Town.”
He said they hired a mechanic who inspected the bus and discovered that it had more problems, including a faulty crankshaft which could cost a lot of money to replace.
Kamanga said the owner of the coach was briefly detained by police in South Africa but had been released when they left that country two days ago.
Upon learning about their ordeal, the South African government and the Malawi High Commission in Pretoria engaged Inter Cape to take the stranded passengers to Malawi and the company duly obliged and brought the 30 passengers home yesterday.
Inter Cape manager in Malawi, Anthony Nhlongo, and chief executive officer Johan Ferreira confirmed being approached to assist the stranded passengers.
“These stranded passengers were helped by the community around Benoni as well as the Salvation Army who provided them with food, water and other amenities. When we were approached to assist, we also did not hesitate but to provide a coach free of charge because Malawi has supported us to grow our business,” said Ferreira in a statement made available to The Nation.
On his part Nhlongo said most of the passengers were from Mzimba and authorities allowed the bus to proceed to the North yesterday to drop them at Mzimba Boma.
Authorities in South Africa were alerted about the plight of the Malawians through media reports.