Petrol attendants' jobs have become extremely hazardous as the massive increases in the price of petrol have resulted in them being driven over, shot and stabbed by drivers.
And, adding insult to injury, if motorists drive off without paying, the attendants have to pay for the petrol.
In two incidents recently, a petrol attendant from Soweto was shot dead, and another from Empangeni was knocked over by a motorist who refused to pay, and then drove off, knocking him down in the process.
This has angered the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), and spokesman Elias Kubheka said petrol attendants throughout the country needed more security.
Armando Muhaswa, 24, a petrol attendant from Soweto, was stabbed and shot dead last Sunday at an Engen garage. Inspector Kay Makhubela said Muhaswa was shot four times by men in a red car.
National Fuel Retailers' Association spokeswoman Bronwyn Taylor said there had been a "spate of incidents" recently.
Attendants said they were "scared" and "living in fear". Jabu Nxumalo, a petrol attendant in Durban, said: "I've been working as a petrol attendant for the past three years and this is the first time I've noticed such a trend.
We know that the petrol price is high, but that does not give motorists the right to just drive off without paying their bill." Nxumalo said he was angered by the fact that he had to pay for the stolen petrol while he does not even have a car.
"It's so sad because we don't get paid much and from the little money that we earn we have to pay for these thieves who just drive off," he said.
Xolani Mkhize, a garage manager in KwaMashu, said: "I have warned my staff about this trend. I told them that if a customer is not a regular, they should ask them beforehand for the cash or card.
It's so sad that this is happening because at the end of the day the petrol attendant is the one who has to pay the bill."
Taylor said the company was working on an industry plan of action. South African Petroleum Industry Association spokesman Avhapfani Tshifularo advised attendants to always be vigilant and to make a note of the registration numbers before filling up customers' cars.
He said: "It would be advisable for petrol stations to change their policy and start to request payment first." Tshifularo said attendants should not fight back if a motorist refused to pay, as this could put their life in danger.
Taylor agreed and said an attendant should never run after the vehicle, or attempt to stop it.