Attacks on Somalis - 'all hell broke loose'

A PORT Elizabeth businessman recalled yesterday how staying calm had possibly saved his life when he suddenly found himself surrounded by a mob of angry young men involved in the xenophobic violence that has gripped Nelson Mandela Bay this week.

Motse Mfuleni, 42, owner of Nelson Mandela Bay- based Mbizo Events, had gone on Sunday to pick up his daughter, 18, who was visiting relatives in Kwazakhele, when he drove past the looters in Mbilini Street.

"When I drove through I noticed there were two foreign-owned shops. In the first shop the police were already there helping the shop owners move out. But as I drove down, I noticed looting [was still taking place] in the second shop.

"I tried to duck out of the action and managed to take another street. As I was about to make a turn, I got to where [a group of] young boys were standing. It looked like the spot from where they monitored the police," he said.

Mfuleni said all hell broke loose when shots were fired as his daughter was standing at the gate waiting for him. "They ran towards me and I heard one say they should take my car [for their] getaway, but another said they were not after the car, they were looking for money. There were about 20. Almost all of them had firearms."

"I just sat there motionless. I did not feel anything. I think being calm is what saved my life because had I moved, they would probably have shot [me], thinking I was trying to reach for a gun.

"I only felt it the next day and realised I had been staring death [in the face]. But I guess it was my lucky day and the good Lord saved me," Mfuleni said.

"There was no way out. I was in a war zone. Any retaliation would have cost me my life."

Mfuleni, who grew up in Zwide and moved to the suburbs, called on people born in the townships who had since moved out, to intervene.

"I ask myself: where did they get the guns from?

"We can't say it's crime and [that the] government or the police must deal with it. The guys are wanting a way to survive. They won't march from New Brighton to [mayor] Oom Ben [Fihla]. They will lock themselves in the townships and rob people [of their] cellphones.

"For me it is beyond being judgmental. I don't have the answers, but something needs to be done. Those of us who no longer stay in the townships don't see the real pain of these youngsters. We need to come together and do something," Mfuleni said.