The day I almost died for my cellphone

2018-09-18 06:00

THE feeling of getting mugged is something that no one wants to experience in their life. I know of people who have died and others sustained serious injuries during this barbaric act committed by criminals.

As a journalist, I have written quite a few articles about people getting mugged and robbed but it never crossed my mind that one day I would experience, witness and be a victim of this criminal activity.

On August 24, I woke up a little bit later than usual because the previous night I had attended a family meeting . I woke up with a smile on my face because it was pay-day at work — the day I had been eagerly awaiting.

I left home at exactly 8.30 am to catch a taxi at Queen Nandi Drive to take me to KwaMashu Station. I walk along Dumisani Makhaye Highway to work every morning.

As a township boy, I knew that this highway has been plagued by a spate of mugging incidents. A jogger, who is also my friend, claimed that he saw two guys carrying pangas and Okapis [slip-joint knives] the previous day.

At about 8.45 am I joined the highway. I walked down towards the foot bridge crossing over the highway. As I walked down the road, I saw two guys coming in the opposite direction. When I was few steps away from them, I could see that their behaviour was suspicious. The first guy was walking barefooted and the other was wearing dirty sneakers. I could pick up from their thuggish accents that they were the ones terrorising people on the highway.

The taller guy said to the other in IsiZulu: “[My friend I don’t know how we survived. I could smell gunpowder all over the place].” The barefooted guy was carrying a pair of takkies, probably from when he mugged someone in KwaMashu. The short man was light in complexion. The strange thing was that he avoided eye contact with me — he probably knew me by sight.

I walked down the footbridge. When I was about a few metres away from them, I heard footsteps coming up behind me. It was the tall guy beginning to chase me. I tried to run away, but this guy was so fast. He was carrying a red screwdriver in his right hand. The second man followed him and drew a knife from his pocket. They both threatened to stab me but the stainless steel Okapi knife and screwdriver did not frighten me.

Being a rural boy, my mentors used to lecture us as young boys while herding calves in the hills of Greytown in the KZN Midlands that bravery is among the crucial components that make a strong man.

The man carrying the screwdriver tried to grab me by neck. In my pockets I had my wallet and my Samsung Note 3 cellphone. In my bag I had my equipment that I use at work. “[Give me that phone and wallet],” said the tall guy while grabbing my bag.

The first thought that came to my mind was that I have to push him away. And guess what, he was weak. He almost fell to the ground. The second man joined in and tried to grab my left hand. I resisted. “[Are you fighting with me? I said give me the cellphone and wallet],” said the first suspect in his thuggish voice while we wrestled on the pavement. “[Give us the phone and wallet],” said the second suspect. The smell from the tall guy was unbearable.

We wrestled on the pavement. I realised that they were going to stab me and leave me for dead on the pavement because I was not willing to follow their instructions. Passing motorists didn’t stop and help me, but perhaps they did not notice that I was being mugged. Anyway, that’s the life in the township. Nobody helps you.

“[Leave me alone],” I said, while pulling them across the yellow line. The short guy left me and took a few steps away; the other threatened to stab me with a screwdriver.

I don’t know where I got the strength to fight off the two armed men. As we wrestled in the middle of the road, a marked municipal vehicle that was driving past with four occupants stopped right in the middle of the road. The tall guy ran, joining the other who had already fled.

Anger and trauma filled my mind. I could feel my blood racing in my veins in a manner that I cannot explain.

The workers from eThekwini Municipality asked me to jump inside their car. The drive said he suspected that these guys were up to something and stopped — I was still traumatised and forgot to ask which unit they were working for . The driver dropped me off at the intersection of Queen Nandi Drive and Dumsani Makhaye Highway where I took a taxi to KwaMashu Station.

When I arrived at the Verulam taxi rank, my body was still shaking, thinking about what would have happened if the municipal workers had not stopped. Picking a fight with armed robbers is dangerous — people have died trying to fight with criminals.

When I arrived at the office, I told my colleagues about the ordeal that I had gone through.

As I was writing this story, my body was still shivering.

I called the Greenwood Park SAPS to report the incident. A captain at the charge office confirmed that there have been numerous incidents on the highway. He promised to send a police van to patrol everyday around the vicinity of the bridge.

I will never forget this day — the day I wrestled with the devils, murderers and warmongers.

These guys are ruthless like a crocodile — to them killing a person is more like killing flies in the kitchen.

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