“There. Right there. He died right there. Look, you are standing on his blood.”
She’s wearing a scarf over her hair, loose jeans and her eyes are bloodshot. She’s still pointing at the blood where I’m standing and she starts swaying and grabs a half-smoked cigarette out of someone’s hand. She’s drunk. It’s 2pm. Just hours before, she was cleaning up Mandla Hlatshwayo’s blood on the floor outside Meli’s tavern.
Small groups of people are huddled all around the pub in Pimville, Soweto. Some are drinking. Others are just staring at where two bullets have shattered the main glass door of the local drinking hole.
But most are just there. They don’t know what to do with themselves. They knew Mandla. They were friends with the former soapie star and later radio DJ at Jozi FM. Some of them were there on Sunday night. They heard the screams. Saw their friend rush out. Heard “bang bang bang” and heard Mandla shouting, then screaming until his screams became rasps and his breathing became heavy. They waited with him as the owner of the pub rushed around trying to find a pillow to put under his head.
There was panic. “Where is the ambulance?” people were screaming. “Bara is right here,” they shouted.
And then his chest lifted up and slowly down and Mandla died.
Outside the tavern people are angry. They’re angry because this is not the first time someone has been shot in the very same street. Another man who doesn’t want to be named says he was shot about two weeks ago.
“This area used to be okay. We live here. We’ve grown up here. But now thugs are just around. It’s not safe. What are we supposed to do?”
It’s a lively street in Pimville, with hawkers selling chips and fruit, school children running around and a group of old men sitting on empty plastic crates watching everyone coming and going.
Several eyewitnesses who were with Mandla on Sunday night say it was a quiet night and there were just a few of them having a drink inside. They heard screaming and shouting outside and two women came running into the tavern. Men were trying to rob them and they were screaming for help. Mandla ran out and he was shot twice.
“Bang Bang. The bangs were so loud,” says a man who will only go by Charles.
Another well-known Pimville resident, known as TomTom, peered outside to see what had happened while other people took cover inside Meli’s. TomTom was also shot and killed.
Those hiding inside saw the men “fiddling” with Mandla and then making a run for it. They were stealing his shoes and his phone.
“He was barefoot. They took his life and his shoes,” says another patron, who is sipping on a beer.
About ten minutes away in Chiawelo, Mandla’s mother is locked in her room, receiving visitors. His brother Sipho, who bares a striking resemblance to Mandla, is wearing a red and white jacket and jeans. He bites his lips as he talks. He’s battling to speak. His eyes are welling up.
“I saw him on Friday. I saw him on Friday. I saw him on Friday.”
The mood here is more sombre. The hurt and pain more tangible.
Shock lines the faces of neighbours, who have gathered to show their support for the family.
“He was a humble man. He went through his ups and downs but he was always smiling. He was just happy and giving. Mandla was a good man.”
It’s a powerful statement.
“Mandla was a good man.”
His death comes amid anger about how men have let South African women down. The rage has been sparked by Karabo Mokoena’s gruesome murder, allegedly at the hands of her boyfriend. Over the past few weeks social media has erupted with the hashtag #MenAreTrash.
Mandla was not trash. Mandla was the only person to leave the tavern to help two women he didn’t know. He didn’t think. He didn’t hestitate. He just ran.
His life wasn’t just taken for a pair of shoes and a phone.
His life was taken because he was a hero.
WATCH: Mandla Hlatshwayo hailed as a hero
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