Beachfront hero tells of battle with mugger

The beachfront hero who grappled with an armed suspect after an elderly British couple were mugged in Port Elizabeth did not even realise he had been shot as he wrestled with the gunman.

Rest Pemhiwa, 35, was lauded for his bravery by a delegation of police top brass, including the new Mount Road Cluster commander, who visited him at St George’s Hospital yesterday.

Pemhiwa was shot in the hip in the scuffle with the 19-year-old suspect who had just allegedly robbed the tourists – aged 86 and 74 – as they rested on a bench during a stroll in Marine Drive, Summerstrand, on Wednesday.

Speaking from his hospital bed yesterday, the camera-shy hero – who is from Zimbabwe but has lived in South Africa for 16 years – said he had been erecting branding at bus stops along Marine Drive shortly before the robbery.

“We had just finished at one [site] and I was driving [a bakkie] when I saw a guy on a bicycle chasing the man,” he said.

“The guy on the bicycle stopped and told me about the robbery and asked for help.

“By that stage, the robber had climbed into a taxi heading towards town.”

Pemhiwa sprang into action and when the taxi driver realised he was being followed, he stopped near the Protea Marine Hotel.

“I mounted the pavement [with the bakkie] and jumped out.

“As I ran towards the taxi, the door was flung open and the [suspect] fired a shot.

“We carried on struggling and I knew if I let him go or tried to run away, he was going to shoot me.

“I had no other option but to grab and wrestle with him.”

Pemhiwa said while they were wrestling, another bystander ran up and kicked the suspect, causing his gun to drop to the ground.

A patrolling ADT armed response officer stopped to help arrest the suspect.

“I did not even know that I had been shot until I saw all the blood and a hole in my shirt,” Pemhiwa said.

Doctors had still not operated on Pemhiwa yesterday morning as the bullet was lodged deep inside his hip.

The dramatic chase occurred at about midday.

The couple, who are on holiday and staying at a beachfront hotel, had just sat down on a bench when the mugger struck, ripping a necklace off the woman’s neck.

Cluster commander Major-General Thembisile Patekile said Pemhiwa was a hero for chasing down and catching a criminal.

“This is such a brave thing for anyone to do,” he said.

“Despite being faced with danger, this young man decided to assist rather than to run.

“Because of his great work, together with other members of the community, we have a suspect in custody and a firearm that is being analysed.

“This man [Pemhiwa], by his bravery, has helped us take a criminal and an illegal firearm off the streets.

“I suspect this firearm [will] be linked to several other crimes and, with that, several unsolved cases can now be solved.”

The suspect, who lives in Schauderville, is to appear in the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court today on charges of robbery and attempted murder.

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