‘I watched my best friend die’

2011-01-08 19:58

It was the perfect party to usher in 2011: dozens of partygoers, loud music and plenty of alcohol.

That is until Lebogang Moyakhe lay dying, trampled by desperate ­patrons wanting to escape the ­chaos at the tavern in Ipelegeng, near Schweizer-Reneke, in North West.

His friend, Mosiiwane Moleko, ­remembers it well. In fact, he ­carries the scars of the bite mark from his best friend desperately clinging to life.

On Friday night, Moyakhe and Moleko, along with teammates from their soccer club, Mamusa United, went to Basotho Inn.

As they entered the premises, a large mob started pouring out of the narrow entrance. That’s when Moyakhe fell down, never to get up again.

“I tried pulling Moyakhe out from under the crowd. The more I pulled, the more determined the crowd was to run over him. I also fell down,” Moleko says.

“One of the people who fell on top of Lebogang (Moyakhe) was another teammate, Botsile Botlhokwane. When I got up, Botsile hung onto my neck with his hands so I was able to pull him up. That’s when Lebogang bit my leg, trying to cling to me.”

A bite mark, now turning into a scar, is visible on Moleko’s left calf.

He says: “People still fell on top of him. I tried pulling people away from him but he was in the ­doorway and more than 10 people were on top of him.

“When the commotion cleared, I took him and placed him inside the premises. I tried to administer CPR since I could see there was still some breath left in him. After what seemed like half an hour, someone came and told me that another teammate, Tshiamo ­Ditlhokwe, was also injured.

“I rushed there and found him sleeping (dead). As I was there someone came and told me that another teammate, Bantaotse Mogokare, had also been injured. I ran to where he was and tried CPR on him as well.”

But it was all in vain, as all three of Moleko’s teammates did not ­regain consciousness.

And it’s still unclear what exactly led to the stampede.

Some witnesses say that what set it off was pepper spray used on the crowd, others say that tavern owner Thekiso Lepholletse fired gunshots into the air, or that it was because of poisoned alcohol that people started falling down.

 Yet another theory is that someone discharged a firecracker on the dance floor.

According to witness statements referred to in court documents at Lepholletse’s bail hearing on ­Friday, by the time he fired shots from his gun, numerous bodies had ­already begun piling up.

He had allegedly tried to calm the situation by firing the shots, but this had instead reportedly led to further chaos.

What did play a role, though, was overcrowding, according to the ­investigating officer, Captain George Mpanza.

The cause of the overcrowding, besides Basotho Inn’s popularity, was that some time after midnight it had started raining and people who had been loitering in the street poured into the club.

Another fatal factor brought up in court was the fact that a small gate was the only entrance and exit to the property – leaving residents to deal with the biggest tragedy to hit the area.

And in this township, people hardly ever say that the deceased have died, or even passed away. They say that they are ­sleeping.

It’s hard to tell if that’s an ­idiosyncrasy of their Setswana ­dialect or because of their disbelief at the tragedy that has unfolded ­before their eyes.

And that is how bereaved mother Mirriam Maano describes the state in which she saw her son at the tavern.

“I was at church when someone told me that people had died at ­Basotho. I went there with no ­family members, and saw my boy ­sleeping there,” she says, her eyes red from crying for her son, Boy, who will ­forever be 19 years old.

“He was still warm when I called out to him.

“They told us that he had passed away.”

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