In a bizarre attack reminiscent of the Oscar-winning film “I, Tonya” and the “Saw” series, triathlete Mhlengi Gwala nearly had his legs severed by three men wielding a handsaw while training on his bike.
The motives of the attack remain a mystery, as the three individuals didn’t steal anything from Gwala, other than his chance to compete in the South African national championships taking place this month.
“He thought they were coming to rob him, stopped and gave them his phone but they didn’t want his phone, didn’t want his watch or bicycle,” Gwala’s training partner Sandile Shange told the BBC.
“They dragged him to the side of the road to some bushes, took a saw and started cutting his legs.
“They kept on cutting and when they got to the bone, because the saw was not that sharp, the saw got stuck. When they saw it was getting stuck they started on the other leg.”
Eventually the three men fled the scene and Gwala crawled to the road where he was picked up by a security car.
Fellow South African triathlete Henri Schoeman, who claimed bronze at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, called the attack “disgusting” on Twitter.
A friend of mine, cycling in the Durban area was robbed by three people this morning, Then they attempted to saw off both legs with a chainsaw. Blade too blunt and only got half way through one and started on the other. Absolutely disgusting! How safe are we on SA roads?
— Henri Schoeman (@H_Schoeman) March 6, 2018
Some questioned whether a competitor was behind the attack in an Tonya Harding-esque attempt to eliminate competition.
WTAF. Why would they rob him and try to saw off his legs? Logically the only motive is that these were hired men from a competitor to knock him out of a race or something?
— TRMJ (@TRMJacobs) March 6, 2018
While others suggested the attack could have been carried out in the name of “muti,” a term for traditional medicine found in South Africa.
Muti would be my call….
— Christoph Groenewald (@christophgroene) March 6, 2018
According to Wikipedia:
Occasions of murder and mutilation associated with some traditional cultural practices in South Africa are also termed muti killings. More correctly known as medicine murder, these are not human sacrifice in a religious sense, but rather involve the murder of someone in order to excise body parts for incorporation as ingredients into medicine and concoctions used in witchcraft.
Whatever the reason for the bizarre attack, it sounds like Gwala will be okay in time.
“When he spoke to doctors they said they will be able to save his leg and he will be able to walk and run again but it is a long walk to recovery,” Shange said.