Thursday, December 11, 2008

Shoot out in Central Port Elizabeth

Today I have something slightly more serious to post. The Herald building is on the edge of the inner city of Port Elizabeth and most of us here at Newspaper House are used to strolling down Govan Mbeki Avenue in our lunch break, either to pop into the bank, or pay an account, or browse through the shoes (Yes, there are many suburban folk who shudder at the thought of dipping a white toe into “Africa” but in case they haven’t noticed, we actually do live in Africa and not lower London or western Washington. Get with the plan, folk.)
Anyway, yesterday was hot and on my way back from town I idly looked at the long queue at KFC, thinking how delicious one of their soft serves would be, but was it really worth that long queue when I probably should have already been back at my desk, slaving away at next week’s La Femme, when all of a sudden, a crowd of folk interrupted my reverie and came swarming round the corner and swept me off deep into Traduna Mall.
“Run, run, sister, run!" shrieked one mama, pushing me out of Govan Mbeki. “They are shooting!”
She grabbed me by the arm and yanked me into a shoe shop (never an entirely unpleasant experience for me, I must confess) and told me the buzz was that someone had tried to hijack a car outside in the street.
The police, or whoever, let off a few shots - which was why the passers-by and shoppers were running in terror. A few minutes later, when things quietened down, I gingerly stepped back out to investigate and found two policemen waving their revolvers over two very ordinary looking guys lying flat on the grit, arms spread, next to a dented car.
I decided to forgo the ice-cream - it seemed a bit trivial after the terror and pandemonium – and hot-foot it back the few hundred metres or so to The Herald in case the news desk wanted to follow up for a pic or a story.
Which they did, sort of, expressing polite but mild interest. The problem was that it was too small, really, to go into a newspaper in today’s South Africa.
“It’ll just be a ‘short’,” warned the news ed.
“It was all over by the time I got there,” said the photographer, who got sent out.
"No one was killed, or even hurt,” said another.
Another day in sunny South Africa. Darn, and I missed out on that ice-cream ...

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