Nomzamo tavern massacre: 'I don't know how my life was spared' - eyewitness

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  • An eyewitness has described the tragedy of the Nomzamo Tavern massacre saying the killers were heartless.
  • He said one of the men armed with an AK-47 opened a sliding door, said nothing and began shooting at people.
  • He described how people died in front of him and were screaming in pain.

"It took me 20 minutes to know that my life had been spared."

These are the words of a patron of Nomzamo Tavern in Orlando East, Soweto who refused to be identified.

LIVE | Tavern shootings claim several lives in Soweto and Pietermaritzburg

The man, whose clothes and shoes were bloodied, was among those who miraculously escaped with their lives when 14 patrons were massacred at the tavern on Saturday night.

Nine people are in hospital after they sustained bullet wounds.

He said:

They came armed. They were heartless. I have never seen such brutality.

The visibly shaken man arrived at the tavern after 19:00 with his friend who lives behind the tavern.

Unfortunately, his friend is among the 14 deceased patrons.

"We were [coming] from work when we decided to stop at the tavern and have a few beers. We arrived carrying some beer cans. My friend, obsessed with playing pool (snooker) went to the pool table and started playing.

"I was seated at the corner with other people drinking. We had fun until around 22:00, when our fun was abruptly stopped. I saw a man carrying an AK-47 (assault rifle) opening the glass sliding door.

"He didn't say anything and started opening fire. My friend and others at the pool table scattered for cover. He sprayed them with bullets.

"I saw them falling to the ground. It was pandemonium. I hid under a table. Four dead people were lying near me. Their blood spilt on me. After the man with an assault rifle was done. Two others carrying 9mm pistols joined and repeatedly fired at people on the floor."

The witness said that the shooting lasted about 10 minutes.

"People died in front of me. Some were screaming in pain. Alcohol was scattered. After killing people, including my friend, the gunmen slowly walked away. I don't know how I was spared because one of the men carrying a pistol was near me. I looked him in the eyes, and he walked away.

"[A] few minutes after they had left, I called an ambulance. Paramedics responded that they were afraid to come and were waiting for the police to escort them. Some cars arrived outside, loaded the injured, and were all driven to the hospital.

"I know that 14 people were massacred and nine severely injured. I am worried about my safety because one of the shooters saw me. I need protection. I hope they will be arrested. I don't know the motive behind the killing," he said.

Community Safety MEC Faith Mazibuko said people were innocently "hanging around" when the shooting began.

"It was like how people sit in a shebeen socialising and relaxing. No one was vigilant to see that something wrong will happen to them. They were not contributing to crime; these ones came in and starting shooting them."

Mazibuko said some illegal establishments were contributing to crime.

"I indicated earlier that sometimes, this is where our people hang out. This is part of the township economy to help our people increase the economy of the township. Ensuring they comply is one matter we having been sitting on. Most are complying."

Provincial commissioner Lieutenant-General Elias Mawela said there was another incident also last night in Matoleville where a family was sitting at a fire at their home and were shot at.

"One person was shot and killed in that incident and another died in hospital."

He said violent crime is a "... concern for all of us".

"When this incident occurred, I was operating in Kagiso in West Rand. We did a compliance inspection, closed four unlicensed taverns, owners were also arrested. We want to assure citizens we won't get tired or weary. We will do our level best to ensure people are safe."

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