Ze­bra Inn mur­der a loss to Mabo­neng

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - ED­WARD TSUMELE

IT MADE sense that Ze­bra Inn in Mabo­neng was a favourite hang­out, es­pe­cially for old pa­trons not amenable to the crowded res­tau­rants of Mabo­neng, which usu­ally teemed with young and en­er­getic pa­trons.

I was one of those who loved the res­tau­rant and, just like TV pro­ducer and pre­sen­ter Jo­hann Botha, the owner had be­come a friend of mine.

In fact, Botha was in­tro­duced to me dur­ing a late night of so­cial­is­ing by the owner who, un­til re­cently, I only knew as Swazi.

His name was, in fact, Werner Josef Pe­herch­told, 76, an Aus­trian and a leg­endary hunter who was also a for­mer war pi­lot.

Most of the time, Swazi did not re­veal much about him­self, but he sur­prised me one night, lead­ing me down­stairs to the base­ment to show me his trea­sure trove – stacks and stacks of books, over 200 000, that he had col­lected over his life­time.

Swazi was a man whom I had come to know as a book col­lec­tor, reader and hunter. He was an ec­cen­tric and came over as be­ing cold, even a bit suspicious of pa­trons that came to his es­tab­lish­ment for the first time.

But once he knew you well, and you knew him, he was one of the sweet­est guys I’d ever known to run an es­tab­lish­ment.

In fact, Swazi is the one who, only a few weeks ago, in­tro­duced me to his buddy Botha, with whom he would be al­ways play­ing pool in his es­tab­lish­ment. In turn, Botha warmed to me, to such an ex­tent that he im­me­di­ately in­vited me to a party at his home the next day, a Satur­day.

Play­ing the race joke, I said to him: “As long as there are no racists at the party, I will def­i­nitely at­tend.”

And true to his prom­ise, as soon as I got home, I re­ceived the fol­low­ing text: “Hey man, this is Jo­hann Botha, just met you at Swazi’s.

“What are you do­ing on Satur­day? I would re­ally like you to come and visit me. You would be the only racist here,” he wrote.

I felt em­bar­rassed for hav­ing ever made that racist joke in the first place, for he was now clearly play­ing it back to me in a wicked way.

Un­til this day, I still have that mes­sage on my phone and I ag­o­nise over whether it was ap­pro­pri­ate for me to have made that racist joke in the first place.

Well, I did not make it to the party in the end, as I was com­mit­ted else­where on the day.

I re­gret that I never went to it, fol­low­ing the mur­der of both Botha and Swazi last Wed­nes­day.

How­ever, liv­ing just three streets away from Ze­bra Inn, I nearly went in there that Wed­nes­day at 7pm, ex­actly the same time it was es­ti­mated that the rob­bery that took my friends’ lives oc­curred.

How­ever, some­thing said to me that it would not be okay to pass through the pub at that time, while clutch­ing a take­away beer that I had bought from a nearby bot­tle­store on my way home.

I am glad that I made that de­ci­sion out of good man­ners, for I would have walked straight into a rob­bery in progress and, like my two friends, could have been a vic­tim of crime at a place I least ex­pected such a thing to hap­pen – my favourite neigh­bour­hood pub.

In fact, Ze­bra Inn is a pub I had in­tro­duced many friends to, ever since I “dis­cov­ered” it, af­ter be­ing in­tro­duced to the cosy pub by film­maker Terry Stevens about three years ago.

Just the pre­vi­ous Fri­day, my friends and I had downed a few drinks there.

One thing about Ze­bra Inn is that it is of­ten quiet and has its loyal pa­trons, both the lo­cals and tourists who visit Mabo­neng.

Swazi had al­ways been care­ful about se­cu­rity at this es­tab­lish­ment, with cam­eras that en­sured that he could see pa­trons as they came in, as far as Al­bertina Sisulu Street, where the pub is sit­u­ated.

It is al­most unimag­in­able that such a mur­der would take place at this es­tab­lish­ment, which had as­sumed iconic sta­tus in Mabo­neng, es­pe­cially since, if Swazi did not know you, he would some­times not open, by re­mote, two elec­tric doors, com­plete with de­lay tech­nol­ogy.

Ze­bra Inn is also a stone’s throw from Jeppe Po­lice Sta­tion and one would as­sume that should be a de­ter­rent for those try­ing to take a chance.

But, ob­vi­ously, it did not dis­cour­age the three rob­bers – a woman, and two men – who robbed Mabo­neng of the lives of two of its most prom­i­nent char­ac­ters.

Swazi is sur­vived by his part­ner Lu­cille.

His me­mo­rial ser­vice is sched­uled for to­mor­row at the Ed­war­dian Church in Houghton.

Swazi was a col­lec­tor, reader and hunter. He was an ec­cen­tric

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