‘I didn’t think I would make it’

Rano Kayser speaks out about fateful assault in council chamber that almost cost him his life

Rano Kayser discusses his ordeal at a council meeting last year INSET: As he looked shortly after being attacked with a glass jug filled with water
Rano Kayser discusses his ordeal at a council meeting last year INSET: As he looked shortly after being attacked with a glass jug filled with water
Image: Brian Witbooi

I saw him picking up the jug. I looked him in his eyes, thinking maybe he was going to pour water on me. But then I saw it coming for my head and in the next moment I felt pain, like my skull was cracking.”

This is what DA councillor Rano Kayser, 41, recalls of the moment ANC councillor Andile Lungisa smashed a glass jug filled with water over his head at the fateful October 27 2016 council meeting.

Lungisa was this week sentenced to two years’ direct imprisonment which he will serve out at the Port Elizabeth North End prison.

His legal team plans to petition the high court to challenge his conviction and sentence after their application for leave to appeal was dismissed in the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court.

Asked how he feels about the sentence and whether or not he believes that justice has been served, Kayser says he respects the outcome of the court, but does not rejoice that Lungisa is now behind bars.

“While it was a victory for justice, it is equally not a time to rejoice,” he says.

“I must admit that I don’t rejoice because the consequence is that a colleague has been sentenced to jail, and this could, perhaps, put an end to the political career of a young politician.” Kayser says.

It has been almost two years since that drama- filled day, which even saw a gunshot fired in the council chamber to break up the fracas, but it remains etched in Kayser’s mind forever.
Asked if Lungisa ever personally apologised to Kayser?

“The first council meeting after the incident, he said to me ‘Kayser, we must talk’,but it never materialised,” Kayser said.

“I learnt about an apology through two of my colleagues the evening before the sentencing. Other than that, there has never been an apology,” Kayser says.

The brawl – captured on video by DA PR councillor Renaldo Gouws - broke out during a heated council meeting on October 26, 2016.

“When the jug smashed against my head, I fell and was unconscious. When I came to, I remember seeing councillors Duncan Monks and Shirley Sauls.

“Councillor Sauls kept on prodding a yellow pen against my eyes, trying to keep me awake. I vividly remember that yellow pen.
“Monks took off his tie and tried to put it on my wound, but it wasn’t helping. He then took off his shirt,” Kayser says.

It is all a blank thereafter until he woke up in the ambulance.

“Even when I regained consciousness, I was confused. What went through my mind is whether or not I would make it,” he says.

“When I arrived at the hospital, the doctor said ‘you’re lucky to be alive’ because the cut was very close to my temple.” He now suffers headaches and short-term memory loss, he says.

He sustained a 3cm gash to the head, a 1cm cut to his chest, multiple lacerations on the left side of his neck and a further 4cm cut to his chest.

At first, he was angry. But that soon dissipated, Kayser says, to the extent that he even shared his sweets with Lungisa in later council meetings.

“I used to be seated directly in front of him and when he saw me eating sweets, he would ask me for one and I would share. I knew that the incident at that October meeting was in the court and I chose to rise above it.” But he was always on the alert. “Even though he sat behind me in council meetings, I didn’t feel threatened. I knew that October 27 meeting was an extraordinary situation. However, I was always ready for anything that could happen.”
In reaching his decision that Lungisa should spend time in jail, magistrate Morne Cannon highlighted that Lungisa had shown little remorse for what he had done and only regretted being convicted.

There has been an outcry from some within ANC circles about the jail term imposed, saying it is too harsh. Others have labelled it a political war waged by the DA against the ANC.

Asked what he thinks of the backlash, Kayser said: “It is normal to be afraid of the unintended consequences of the verdict.

“Some say ‘Rano is the problem’. But how do you blame the victim?

“It was handled by the courts and that’s it. And people need to remember that . . . it was Lungisa who first opened a case against me.”