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Money up in Smoke

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Money up in Smoke

by Nurene Jassiem
23 May 2006
Peoples Post
Peoples Post

Three generations of bus services from Athlone and one man from Surrey Estate's main source of income went up in smoke as four buses burnt out in Airport Industria earlier this month.

The fire, believed to have been caused by arsonists, destroyed three of Shadley Chilwan's buses and burnt Nazeem Israel's only bus beyond recognition. Chilwan, whose grandfather started the family business in 1945, said he had to "lay three workers off because there are no buses for them to drive".

This is the first such incident that Chilwan can recall in the family's 61-year history.

"I was notified about the fire by a family member. It started at around 22:00 and by 23:00 everything was up in smoke," a seemingly strained Chilwan said.

Not all of Chilwan's buses were insured and it will cost between R500 000 and R600 000 to replace each of them. Israel has suffered just as big a blow. His bus was not insured and he says he does not know how long it will take for him to buy a new one. "I did not insure my bus because I did not have any definite contracts to guarantee meeting an instalment every month. The loss has left a big hole in my pocket," he said.

Israel started his bus company just under ten years ago, when he bought a small bus. "I saved my money and made lots of sacrifices to buy this semi–lux bus last November. I bought and sold my previous buses until I had raised enough money to buy this bus cash," he said.

While both Chilwan and Israel are still unsure about the future of their businesses, they are grateful for the support they have received from people. Chilwan said he is relieved that no-one was hurt in the incident. "I'm just glad that nobody was hurt because stuff can be replaced but no amount of money can bring a life back again. I must express my appreciation for all the bus operators who called me with messages of support. I really appreciate their concern," he added.
Israel is determined to work his way up again. Although many are dependent on his bus company's earnings, he says he does not expect any hand-outs from people. "I have to work my way up again," he says resolutely.

The police's forensics team is investigating a case of malicious damage to property.

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