A KwaZulu-Natal triathlete who was attacked with a chainsaw while training, says he won’t center around the negative perspectives, however make a full recuperation and “get back out there”
Mhlengi Gwala, 26, was talking to News24 a day after he underwent a successful five-hour surgery at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital.
Gwala was training near the University of KwaZulu-Natal at about 03:15 on Tuesday when he was attacked.
The three assailants did not take any of his belongings, but dragged him into the nearby bush where they used a chainsaw in an attempt to cut off his legs.
After failing to start up the chainsaw, the men opted to use the malfunctioning device manually to try to cut off one of his limbs.
Unable to cut through his bone and disturbed by a nearby security guard, the men fled, leaving Gwala seriously injured.
“It was a very normal day for me. I had gone on an early training [session] before sunrise. I was cycling when these men came out of nowhere,” Gwala told News24 from his hospital bed.
He said he was approaching a hilltop when he was attacked.
“They grabbed me and just pulled me into the bush. They were speaking a funny language I did not know, before they started cutting my leg.”
Gwala said he didn’t understand what was happening and was struck with fear.
“I was panicking when it happened to me. I did not understand why they were doing this. I don’t know why they would do something like that to me.”
Gwala said it was hard to rule out that he was intentionally attacked.
“Maybe someone sent them too. They didn’t take anything. I took out my phone but they gave it back. That was when two pinned me down and another started to cut me.”
Gwala said he was disheartened that he would not be able to compete.
“I am feeling bad that I will not be able to participate. The doctor said I will have to recover for six months. But I am so happy for my support.”
Gwala was referring to a crowdfunding effort that raised more than R400 000 for him in just over a day.
Titled ‘Get Mhlengi back on his bike’, the crowdfunding effort on backabuddy.co.za had amassed R412 743,99 of a targeted R500 000 by noon on Thursday.
“I cannot tell you how happy I am for the money raised. People have my back. People around the world, even those that I don’t know are helping. It makes me feel strong to have this support.”
He added: “I am not afraid after the attack. I want to get through recovery and get back on my bike and running. I don’t want to think about anything negative.”
Mhlengi’s crowdfund describes him as a South African triathlete who was robbed while cycling.
“The robbers tried to cut his leg with a chainsaw. We are hoping to raise funds to support him with all his medical expenses, transportation, bike replacement and rehabilitation costs. We want to see him back on his bike! We received news that the surgery went very well and now the road to recovery begins,” it reads.
The website indicated that Gwala received donations mainly from South Africans, but it showed that donations also came from the United States.
One American, Joan Charnley, left a message of support on the page: “I cannot begin to imagine what you are going through but I hope that you stay strong and have a speedy recovery.”
Another, from a South African identified as Rob, said: “Raced with you last weekend, struggled to keep up. You’re strong and can pull through this thing and show those guys why you are where you are! You’re a winner my friend!”