We thought we were going to die - SA volunteer in Mali

2015-08-09 14:59
(Gift of the Givers)

(Gift of the Givers)

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Johannesburg - A Gift of the Givers volunteer has detailed how he and two fellow South Africans were convinced they were going to die when a siege broke out at a Malian hotel in which they were staying.

“We thought that we were definitely going to die,” the volunteer said via a statement released by the humanitarian aid organisation.

“Two of us survived. Jaco didn't make it.”

The 38-year-old South African who died in the attack was from Pretoria and was in Mali working for an aviation company connected to the United Nations. He has been identified as father-of-four, Roelof Janse van Rensburg.

The volunteer, who did not want to be named, said there were nine South Africans in the country when the siege broke out, but only three were at Hotel Byblos in Sevare when the shoot-out began on Friday.

He said they were still waiting for Van Rensberg’s remains to be moved to the capital Bamako and for papers to be given “so he can be moved to his family in South Africa".

“We have no idea what's going on for now.”

'Terrible, frightening and traumatising'

The volunteer told Gift of the Givers that the other South Africans were fine.

“We have been moved to a hotel in the capital Bamako and are under security protection.”


(Gift of the Givers)

He said they were not yet sure whether or not they would be coming home.

Detailing their experience, the volunteer said it was “terrible, frightening and traumatising".

“We prayed the whole night like never before… We were sitting ducks caught in the crossfire.”

He said that only 16 people were staying in the small hotel when a group rushed in and began shooting indiscriminately.

“Some [hotel guests] were outside before the shooting and some managed to escape when the shooting started. The rest of us were trapped.”

He said those inside rushed into their rooms and locked the doors and prayed.

“They shot repeatedly at our door and tried to break through. They even tried burning it and were firing through the walls. Nobody was coming to rescue us.”

At one point, said the volunteer, one occupant was dragged from his room and shot.

“It seems they wanted to make a point.”


(Gift of the Givers)

20 hours

The volunteer said the shooting went on for twenty hours.

The volunteer also sent pictures of the devastation of the hotel following the attack as well as sound clips of endless gunfire that was recorded by him while he was hiding in the bathroom.

On Sunday, the international relations department said that the South African embassy in Mali was assisting with the repatriation arrangements for Van Rensburg.

“The embassy is liaising with the authorities and the embassy will provide consular assistance to the family,” said departmental spokesperson Nelson Kgwete.

He said this included “facilitating the arranging of the repatriation of the mortal remains of the South African”.

AFP reported that at least twelve people were killed during the siege that finally ended when government troops stormed the building.


(Gift of the Givers)

Read more on:    gift of the givers  |  mali  |  west africa

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