A community of taxi drivers in Pietermaritzburg sped to the rescue and fought off an enterprising young whoonga addict who was trying to rip a woman’s cellphone from her hand.
The victim, local crèche owner Sally Byrne Beattie, told Maritzburg Sun she was driving with a friend and approached a set of traffic lights when a beggar, who she said was “clearly high”, suddenly opened the passenger door that she had not realised was unlocked.
The beggar aggressively attempted to rip the cellphone out her hand.
“I was sending a message to one of the parents from the crèche I run, and next thing I knew, my car door had been opened and someone was trying to grab my phone from my hand. I refused to let go of my phone, because I run my business from my phone, and so I grabbed hold of it with both my hands.
“The man was pulling so hard, it felt like he was going to lift me out of the car too,” Beattie recalled, adding that she has a blister on her thumb from the tug-of-war attempt to get her cellphone back.
At that moment, a passing taxi suddenly started reversing towards their car, parking at an angle that sandwiched the mugger between Beattie and the taxi. Beattie said the conductor then got out and came around to her side and started beating the mugger. He was soon joined by many other taxi drivers who stopped and joined in, hitting, punching, and beating the mugger.
“The taxi drivers were absolutely amazing. If it hadn’t been for them, I would have lost my handbag and cellphone, and possibly even been harmed in the process. These taxi drivers definitely deserve recognition for coming to our rescue,” Beattie praised.
She said she assumed the mugger, a young beggar who appeared to be in his twenties, was one of the whoonga addicts who frequent the CBD streets, as his eyes were glassy and he “looked very high”.
She urged drivers to be vigilant when driving in town, especially down Boshoff and Longmarket streets, and called for an increased police presence in town.
“This incident highlights [an] increased need for police presence on these streets. There were no police cars anywhere, and these streets are notorious for crime. Police should especially be monitoring the area on the lookout for whoonga addicts,” Beattie stressed.
Motorists are also reminded not to use their cellphones while driving, as it can not only cause the driver to be distracted, but also makes drivers vulnerable to muggings.