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ARSONISTS CAUSE E4.5M DAMAGE AT MONTIGNY

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MHLAMBANYATSI – Arsonists burnt four vehicles, including a new fire engine at the Montigny Investments’ Fire Station, leaving a trail of destruction worth E4.5 million on Wednesday night.

Four men armed with rifles and pistols are said to have arrived at the fire station at around 11pm and immediately grabbed a security guard. They are said to have tied his hands and dragged him to the nearby pine tree forest, where they forced him to lie down. They also ordered a few other workers to lie down, while they torched the fire engines using petrol bombs.Two other bakkies parked close to the fire engines also suffered damages as a result of the fire.
An employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the arsonists spent almost an hour at the fire station while ensuring that the fire was causing the damage they intended. “They struggled to open the doors of the main fire engine because there were no keys. They then smashed the windscreen and threw petrol bombs in it,” the workers said.The workers said the arsonists had not struggled burning the other fire engine because its doors were not locked. “While they were causing the damage, they said they hated us because we are a threat to their business of burning properties. They said whenever they try to start a fire, we respond promptly to put it out before it makes extensive damage,” the source said.

The flames were extinguished by firefighters from other fire stations in the morning hours, after the arsonists had left the scene. When the times visited the fire station, there was tranquil, though damage was visible on the two fire engines as well as the engine house. A bakkie and a sedan had also sustained burns.Managers met and discussed alternatives, in low hum, while waiting for the arrival of the Royal Eswatini Police Service (REPS) Bomb Disposal unit.Montigny Investments Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Andrew le Roux said the arsonists terrorised the workers with guns and put their lives in danger.

“I can confirm that there was an arson attack on one of the Montigny sites last night. A number of vehicles were damaged and the security team is still assessing the damage. The arson attack was perpetrated by armed men, who also tried to shoot our employees, placing them in grave danger,” he said.
Le Roux said there were no injuries and that the workers were safe. He said security had been increased following the attack. “We condemn this criminal and cowardly act in the strictest of terms possible. Montigny is working tirelessly with all security agencies to track down the perpetrators,” he said.

Phones

Workers said there had been arson related fires on the forestry before at Montigny, leading to a police investigation team visiting the company. “At one time the investigators wanted to see the phones of some workers to see if they had not played a part in the fires,” said the source.However, some workers said the arson attack had instilled an aura of fear among the workers, who stayed in camps within the vicinity of the forestry. Chief Police Information and Communications Officer Phindile Vilakati confirmed the incident and said police were investigating. “No one has been arrested in connection with the arson attack at the moment,” she said.

Montigny is one of a few forestry companies that have been on the receiving end of arson attacks recently. Trucks normally used to transport workers at Rockland Mills were set alight by unknown people on November 16 this year at around the same time.An underground group that calls itself the Swaziland Solidarity Forces has claimed responsibility for the fire on social media.

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