On April 20, Lerumo was hijacked after giving two men a lift at a petrol station in Bronkhorspruit, east of Pretoria. He had stopped to fill up with petrol after dropping his mother Jane at a parents meeting at a primary school in the area.
BONGANI Lerumo’s eyes could be permanently damaged unless he gets urgent medical attention after he was scalded with acid by two hitchhikers.
“My cousin Lucky Sithole was also at the meeting. He said I could leave my mother there and he would bring her home after the meeting,” Lerumo said from his home in section D, Enkangala.
On his way home, Lerumo stopped at a garage. I saw my other cousin Harry who asked me to give his lady friend a lift – and I agreed. Just as I was about to leave, two guys came and asked for a lift. It was late and I felt sorry for them. So I agreed,” he said.
Jane Ndlovu, 31, the woman who got a lift from Lerumo, sustained serious burn wounds when the two men also poured acid on her.
Little did Lerumo suspect that his decision to give the two men a lift – one of whom allegedly spotted a Zion Christian Church badge – would come back to haunt him. It not only damaged his eyesight, it nearly cost him his life.
“After about a kilometre, the men told me to drop them off as they had forgotten something at the filling station,” Lerumo said.
That is when his nightmare began.
“I stopped the car and immediately felt something very hot over my head, like I was literally burning. I quickly jumped out of the car and ran away.
“The pain was unbearable. I ran to the side of the road. A man took me to a police station. Police took me to Bronkhorstspruit hospital.
“I was later transferred to Steve Biko hospital. I spent six days in the intensive care unit,” he said.
Lerumo, an electrical engineering student, was only days away from starting his internship programme with the department of public works when he was hijacked.
His car, a Toyota Corolla, was found abandoned in Bronkhorstpruit later that night.
In the days after his ordeal, Lerumo said he was sad and frightened but the support of his family had kept him sane.
“It was difficult at first because I was alone at the hospital. But since being discharged, it has gotten better because I get to talk to my family who console me,” he said.
“I’m no longer as sad and frightened as I was because an eye specialist said there was a possibility I could regain my sight,” he said.
Ndlovu said after she got into Lerumo’s car, the two guys also came and asked for a lift, and he agreed. Ndlovu said she became alarmed after they asked Lerumo to “drop them off in the middle of nowhere”.
“I’m a taxi driver and know this area very well. It struck me as odd when they asked to be dropped off. I turned around to ask why they wanted to get off there, but before I knew it, they poured acid on me.
“I suffered third degree burns and spent two months in hospital. My face was badly burnt and the total costs of my stay at the hospital amounted to R81000. I’m struggling to pay this money,” Ndlovu said.
Sithole said since news of Lerumo’s accident started spreading, good Samaritans had been contributing money towards his medical bills.
“About R4900 had been raised so far but we need more. The eye specialist said Bongani needs to undergo a series of operations and these could probably cost about R100000. The eye specialist said he needs two corneas and that could help restore his sight,” Sithole said.
Bronkhorspruit police said one man had since been arrested while the other one is still at large. They will face hijacking and attempted murder charges.