‘Our night of tsotsi ter­ror at FNB’

Star-stud­ded show ends in ‘war zone’ as mug­gers de­scend on depart­ing crowd

Sunday Times - - News Global Citizen - By LEONIE WAG­NER

● Con­cert­go­ers — in­clud­ing a high-pro­file me­dia per­son­al­ity — have told the Sun­day Times how they fought off mug­gers in the chaotic af­ter­math of last week­end’s Global Ci­ti­zen Fes­ti­val, de­scrib­ing the scene as “apoc­a­lyp­tic” and rem­i­nis­cent of a hor­ror movie.

One cou­ple said thieves were even steal­ing phones from other mug­gers.

A prom­i­nent South African me­dia per­son­al­ity and busi­ness­woman, who did not want to be named, said she at­tended the fes­ti­val with her hus­band, their son and two other fam­ily members. They left the con­cert at FNB Sta­dium in Soweto just be­fore 11pm to avoid traf­fic.

She was mugged just out­side the sta­dium on her way to the VIP park­ing area.

“In a mat­ter of sec­onds I had my phone snatched from me. Some mar­shals caught him. He said he didn’t take my phone, I said I saw him. I punched him in the face and once I did that he gave me back my phone. As soon as I had my phone, I put it in my bag and while I was still do­ing this an­other man came by and snatched my phone.

“He ran away into the crowd. We were sur­rounded and it was may­hem,” she said.

The celebrity said the sto­ries of peo­ple be­ing ac­costed were dis­turb­ing.

“We left the con­cert on such a high and to be mugged was un­for­tu­nate. It leaves such a bad taste in your mouth. For me it was my phone and it’s not the end of the world,” she said.

Avid con­cert­go­ers Heema Gopar and her fi­ancé, Adrian Ober­holzer, de­scribed the chaos that fol­lowed the fes­ti­val as apoc­a­lyp­tic. The cou­ple have had trou­ble sleep­ing since Sun­day, say­ing they are be­ing kept awake by their mem­o­ries of the screams of fel­low fes­ti­val­go­ers.

“We haven’t even spo­ken about the show, we haven’t spo­ken about the per­for­mances or the speeches.

“At the garage, it felt like I was in limbo, it felt sur­real. We were hear­ing the screams and they didn’t stop. What hurts is that noone came to our aid, we felt aban­doned. It all felt apoc­a­lyp­tic, it felt like we were never go­ing to es­cape,” Gopar said.

Punched in the face

The garage Gopar re­ferred to is the Sa­sol petrol sta­tion 1.4km from the sta­dium, where the cou­ple’s Uber driver was wait­ing for them af­ter the con­cert.

The cou­ple left the sta­dium around mid­night and made their way to the garage, which was sup­posed to be “an easy pick-up point”.

En route they heard a com­mo­tion. Ober­holzer said a man grabbed his phone and punched him in the stom­ach. Re­spond­ing in­stinc­tively, he punched the man back. Gopar heard her part­ner swear­ing and turned around to see what was hap­pen­ing. As she did, an­other man ran past her, de­lib­er­ately knock­ing her phone out of her hand. They both tried to grab the phone and Gopar grabbed the as­sailant by the back of his red T-shirt .

Three other men saw what was hap­pen­ing and tried to get her phone from the first man. The trio then tried to rob the man in the red T-shirt. One of the men punched Gopar in the face and grabbed her hand­bag.

‘Pock­ets of crim­i­nals’

Af­ter fight­ing off his attacker, Ober­holzer turned around and saw his fi­ancée bleed­ing on the ground.

“I’ve been do­ing kick­box­ing for a while. When he hit me, I saw red and I hit the guy straight in the face with all 120kg of me. I had to do what­ever it took to pro­tect Heema, she was my only concern,” Ober­holzer said.

Gopar’s right eye was in­jured and the im­pact from the punch cut her nose. Ini­tially she felt numb but once it was over she re­alised what had hap­pened and be­gan cry­ing. The cou­ple will be­gin trauma coun­selling this week.

“I’m still a bit shaken and I still haven’t pro­cessed what hap­pened. I can still hear the blood­cur­dling screams, it was hor­rific. It hap­pened so quickly, it was so quick how they dis­tracted Adrian and ran off,” Gopar said.

YouTu­ber Michael Cost and his sis­ter, well-known en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist and ac­tivist Cather­ine Con­stan­tinides, saw a lot of the chaos.

They hid their phones in their clothes. “When I say it was like a war zone I’m not be­ing dra­matic. There were crim­i­nals fight­ing crim­i­nals for bags, peo­ple were punched in the stom­ach, stabbed and burnt with cig­a­rettes. We were com­pletely help­less,” Con­stan­tinides said.

Cost said he had been pre­pared for petty theft, but not the may­hem that en­sued.

“I saw a group of six men fight­ing over a pur­ple hand­bag. There was a lady scream­ing at a group of men who tried to steal her phone. One man was scream­ing ‘Who punched my wife?’ and a teenager was bleed­ing af­ter her phone was stolen.

“There were dif­fer­ent pock­ets of crim­i­nals tor­ment­ing fes­ti­val­go­ers and there were mini stam­pedes.”

I’ve been do­ing kick­box­ing for a while. When he hit me, I saw red and I hit the guy straight in the face with all 120kg of me

Adrian Ober­holzer

Pic­ture: Sim­phiwe Nk­wali

Adrian Ober­holzer and his fi­ancée, Heema Gopar, were at­tacked by mug­gers, and mug­gers mug­ging those mug­gers, af­ter the Global Ci­ti­zen show.

CCTV footage of the scene at the crowded Sa­sol petrol sta­tion, a post-con­cert taxi pickup spot, where gangs of mug­gers ran amok af­ter the con­cert, left, and right, a graphic show­ing the area

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