Witnesses have described the carnage after gunmen armed with rifles and pistols opened fire at people in a tavern in Soweto in the early hours of Sunday, killing 15 and wounding nine.
By Nqobile Dludla and Tim Cocks
JOHANNESBURG – Witnesses have described the carnage after gunmen armed with rifles and pistols opened fire at people in a tavern in Soweto in the early hours of Sunday, killing 15 and wounding nine.
The carnage took place shortly after midnight, when an unknown number of gunmen entered the Orlando East tavern, spraying bullets at its patrons, police and witnesses said.
“Some were shot in the head, you could see their brains spilling out,” said Thobani Mhlabiso, 26, a bar waiter who hid behind the fridge to survive the onslaught in one of Soweto’s poorer neighbourhoods. “I had to jump over those bodies. There was blood everywhere.”
Police confirmed that there had been a second apparently random shooting at around 8.30pm on Saturday in a tavern in Pietermaritzburg, killing four people and wounding eight.
“We do not think the incidents are linked because they took place in different provinces. We are investigating this incident on its own,” Nqobile Gwala, police spokesperson for KwaZulu-Natal, said by telephone.
In both cases, the unknown gunmen fled the scene and are now on the run, police said, adding that it was not clear how many were involved in the attacks or what their motives were.
“I’m so heartbroken,” Sololo Mjoli, a 59-year-old gardener, whose two sons, Sthembiso, 34, and Luyanda, 18, were both killed, said.
Sthemibiso’s girlfriend had arrived on the scene shortly after the attack to find him still breathing, Mjoli said.
“Then he was rushed to hospital, where he died.”
At the scene of the Soweto shooting, crowds gathered around the police cordon, where a heavy police presence maintained order and combed the area for clues, a Reuters reporter saw. One officer carried zip-locked bags full of spent bullet cartridges.
Elias Mawela, Gauteng police commissioner, told Reuters by telephone that there had been a third shooting during a suspected robbery in a tavern in Katlehong, also outside Johannesburg, on Thursday night, which killed two people and wounded two others.
Referring to the Soweto shooting, Mawela said: “There was no specific person targeted. You can see by the way the bullet cartridges are cast around that were just shooting randomly.”