FOREIGNERS COME UNDER GUNFIRE

Cape Argus, 16 August 2008

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He just kept pulling the trigger, shooting to kill. These were the words of Malawian petrol attendant Kiem James, who escaped when an armed man went on a rampage at a Heideveld petrol station, killing one person and seriously injuring two others. A quiet night at work turned into a nightmare for the four Malawian petrol jockeys last Friday when a man wearing dark clothes and a cap approached them and started shooting wildly. He hit and killed one of the four and injured two others before fleeing on foot. No arrest has been made and police are investigating. Police spokesman Captain Elliot Sinyangana said a murder and two attempted murder dockets had been opened. Now petrol attendants fear the man might return. Speaking to Weekend Argus at the spot where his colleague John Taibu, 27, collapsed and died, James said petrol attendants now feared for their lives. "Some petrol attendants, especially those from other African countries, don't want to come to work any more. "But we have no choice; we have to work to support our families and ourselves. "Every night we huddle together and pray that that man doesn't come back. All of us are afraid and hope the police find the man responsible for John's death." James said last Friday when things had quietened down, the jockeys had been discussing their plans for the weekend when a man brandishing a pistol appeared out of the blue. "He must have snuck up on us," he said. "He didn't say anything, he just started shooting. "I ran as fast as I could and he shot in my direction but missed. But my colleagues were not as lucky. As they tried to get away the bullets hit them and they fell to the ground. "Within seconds he was gone."James said the man might have had a getaway car waiting for him as he heard tyres screeching in the road behind the petrol station shortly after he fled. "He just kept pulling the trigger, shooting to kill. Why would someone just come and shoot petrol attendants without taking money or trying to get into the safe? "I'm sure it was a hit on us. Why would they only target us foreigners? "Other times there are South African petrol attendants on duty and this doesn't happen. I think we were targeted. There are a lot of people without work here and we are employed. Maybe they are jealous." James said he was afraid to go to work. "I am so afraid. When I leave home in the afternoon for the night shift I don't know if I'm going to see my house again." One of the two men injured was discharged from hospital and is recovering at home, while the other is in a stable condition in hospital. The two men asked not to be named. Another attendant at the same petrol station, Ayanda Fumanisa, said he too was afraid of coming to work, even though he worked the day shift. "We have to look over our shoulders all the time. What happened here last week is very sad and I hope the police catch the man responsible." The owner of the small shop and DVD store next to the petrol station, who also asked not to be named, said this was the first time the petrol station had been targeted by criminals. "On the CCTV footage you can see the man coming straight towards the petrol attendants and then he just starts shooting, and runs away. It's the first time something like this has happened here."