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EC journo tells of Kenya bloodbath

Date Released: Mon, 23 September 2013 11:00 +0200

AFORMER Eastern Cape journalist narrowly missed being caught up in the terror attack on a Kenyan shopping mall on Saturday.

Nqobile Buthelezi, a former Rhodes University-based online journalist and manager for Highway Africa, was saved by what she described as a recurring bad dream.

Writing of her account on Facebook, Buthelezi – now working as the digital innovation programme manager at Africa Media Initiative in Nairobi – said she was supposed to meet a friend at the Westgate mall but was running late.

“People ran out of the mall. Others ran to the parking lots while others abandoned cars on the mall driveway,” she said.

“I thank God for waking up late because I would have most definitely been in there.”

Buthelezi, who moved from Grahamstown to Nairobi this year, said choppers were flying over the upmarket suburb of Westlands and military barricades were going up as she fled the scene.

While the drama continued at the mall yesterday, the Kenyatta National Hospital’s labour wards caught fire, allegedly caused by an electrical fault. No injuries or deaths were reported and the fire was contained.

But one unnamed South African is among at least 59 killed in the mall siege. Another six were able to flee the scene safely.

President Jacob Zuma has expressed shock.

“Terrorism in any form and from whichever quarter, cannot be condoned and South Africa stands firmly with the international community in condemning all terrorism. We wish the Kenyan government every success in rapidly resolving this issue with as little further loss of life as possible.”

Yesterday afternoon, international relations and cooperation spokesman, Clayson Monyela confirmed that one South African had been fatally shot.

He said the South African High Commission in Nairobi was closely monitoring the situation in close liaison with the Kenyan authorities.

“Consular assistance is being provided to the next of kin of the deceased South African.”

Heartrending accounts of the day of terror emerged.

Nahashon Mwangi told of how he was at work when he received a desperate telephone call from his son, pleading with him to rescue him from imminent death.

“Dad, I have been shot in the neck and hand. I am bleeding. Come and help me please,” his 21-year-old son begged.

Mwangi said he jumped in his car and rushed across Nairobi to the mall, but when he became agonizingly stuck in Nairobi’s traffic jam, he called his son again.

“Don’t call me again,” was the reply. “I just want you to get me out of here. If they hear me talking, they are going to kill me!”

“It took me about an hour to access the area,” Mwangi recounted.

“I was crying and pleading with the police to save my son. I remember shouting like a kid, crying and crying but they wouldn’t let me through.”

Relief came five hours later, when his injured son was among those evacuated by security forces sweeping the mall shop by shop and rushed to Nairobi’s Aga Khan University Hospital.

Another victim, mall worker Zipporah Wanjiru, emerged from the ordeal alive but in a state of total shock.

“They were speaking some language I could not understand,” she said of the attackers. “I could not understand anything – but the sound of their voices was scary.”

Cafe waiter Titus Alede said it was a “miracle from God” that he managed to escape the approaching gunmen.

“I was serving a client and these men came. They were not after money as they were shooting people without asking for anything.

“I remember them saying ‘you killed our people in Somalia, it is our time to pay you back’,” he recounted.

In the hours after the attack began, shocked people of all ages and races could be seen running from the mall, some clutching babies, while others crawled along walls to avoid stray bullets.

Kenyan police, troops and special forces moved in and went shop-to-shop inside the shopping centre. Foreign security officials – from Israel, the United States and Britain – were also seen at the complex. — Additional reporting by Sapa-AFP

By Bongani Fuzile, Poliswa Plaatjie and Siya Boya

Photo: Nqobile Buthelezi

Source: Daily Dispatch