We were hungry, thirsty when we ran, says hospitalised man

2012-12-31 00:00

LINDELANI Kubheka came to Pietermaritzburg thinking only about the job he so desperately wanted.

In the end, the opportunity nearly cost the jobless 28-year-old his life.

Kubheka was among the 35 000 people who were called to the Harry Gwala Stadium last Thursday and Friday to take part in fitness trials for 90 traffic inspector posts that were up for grabs.

Yesterday, he spoke to The Witness from his bed in Northdale Hospital where he is recovering from dehydration.

Kubheka said he arrived from Newcastle on the Day of Goodwill after the provincial Department of Transport called to ask him to attend a recruitment test at the stadium.

The test entailed a four kilometre run to be completed in 30 minutes. However, the temperature on the day rose to 33°C.

“This was worse than when I tried to become a soldier,” said Kubheka. “We were starving and needed water, but the venue is isolated from fast food outlets, so it was difficult for many of us to survive the scorching heat without water and food.”

The event was horribly disorganised, he added, but he was desperate for a job and went along with the run.

By the time Kubheka set off, it was after 7 pm. Earlier, organisers had postponed proceedings to the evening because so many applicants were collapsing from exhaustion.

Like many other applicants, Kubheka ran on an empty stomach and without water.

He said he could not remember whether he slipped or simply fainted during his run, but he woke up the next day in hospital.

“I was unconscious and regained consciousness on Friday afternoon and I found myself in the high care unit,” he said.

His family has been in touch and he expects to return home today.

The chairperson of the board at Northdale Hospital, Rachel Soobiah, said the hospital knew nothing of the recruitment drive. “We only became aware when scores of dehydrated patients flooded the hospital on Thursday afternoon.”

She said the influx was overwhelming and that the hospital ran out of beds.

“On Friday, we decided to visit the stadium to talk to the organisers about possibly cancelling the entire programme because we saw that it was poorly organised and if nothing was done to stop it, then we might have ended up with a number people dying as a result,” said Soobiah.

In the end, seven applicants died, one reportedly a distraught candidate who took his own life after missing out.

Two people died at Northdale, eight were admitted and more than 40 were treated for dehydration, said Soobiah.

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