Reactions pour in for triathlete Mhlengi Gwala

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Well wishes are pouring in for South African triathlete Mhlengi Gwala after he was brutally attacked in Durban.

Gwala was attacked by three men while training near the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Howard College campus.

He has represented South Africa twice in international events and will now be unable to participate in the South African Triathlon Championships in Bloemfontein in two weeks’ time.

Twenty-seven-year-old Gwala is now undergoing a massive surgery in the hope of saving his legs after the brutal attack.

His friends and family are still in shock and want answers as to why he was attacked in such a brutal way.

Gwala’s close friend Sandile Shange was one of the first people who visited Gwala in hospital and heard the detailed account from Gwala himself who was in great pain.

Shange says Gwala recounted the vicious attack, saying that the attackers did not want any of his possessions.

He says Gwala told him that he offered them his cellphone, his wallet and even his watch, but that the attackers said they only wanted his legs.

“And then they took his leg and started cutting and he started screaming and fighting, but there was no help from no one and they were just trying to cut and they managed to cut his leg badly. I think the chainsaw was rusty and was not sharpened. That’s when they started to try the other leg. That’s when he said, ‘No, these guys can rather kill me. I’m fighting now.’ And he fought and then the Fidelity van came down. He’s very traumatised and devastated. He’s only thinking about his races and I just saw him and said to him, ‘Mate, for now you’d better focus on your recovery and then we can take it from there.’ But you can see.”

Originally from Ndwedwe, north of Durban, Gwala currently lives in Chesterville with his mother. He started his studies at Unisa and later found himself entangled with the wrong crowds.

In an interview with the SABC in 2017, Gwala said he found himself doing drugs.

His friend, Sebestian Crawford, says Gwala was very dedicated to the sport.

“He made a turnaround point and realised that, that life wasn’t for him. He took sports on and that brought him to a better side of life and he’s been dedicated ever since. We were leaving on Tuesday and he was thinking of Thursday and Friday to come through to Bloem to race for the SA champs to qualify for the world champs in September and then in 6 weeks time he was going to race the ironman to qualify for the long distance champs.”

Director of the Elite Athlete Development programme, Dennis Jackson says Gwala was a hardworking athlete and he loved what he did.

Jackson says they are waiting to hear how the operation went and are hopeful it will be a success.

“They didn’t get to the main artery and that’s the good news we got this morning from the doctors who are taking care of him. He’s got a very good team of plastic surgeons, orthopeadic surgeons working on him in the operation. It’ll be a very long operation. They are fairly confident that they will save the leg, but obviously, there’s a chance they may not, but they’ll do their best. But whichever the outcome, it’ll be a long road to recovery.”

A case of attempted murder has been opened with the Umbilo police, but police say no arrests have been made as yet.