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Durban - The Glenwood petrol attendant who was brutally beaten at his workplace on Monday, apparently for not joining the motor industry strike, said he was so engrossed in changing a customer’s oil that he did not see the attack coming.
On Tuesday, Jerome Mkhungu, who is still in hospital, said he refused to be intimidated and would never allow the attack to stop him from doing the work he loved.
“I believe they wanted to kill me, because even when I fell they did not stop,” the Durban father of one said.
He saw his fellow pump attendants run but thought nothing of it.
“I thought they were playing around with each other. I was so concentrated on what I was doing that I hardly looked up.”
Mkhungu said it was only when he looked up that he saw he was being surrounded by an irate mob. “They didn’t ask me anything, they just started hitting me with sticks. Some grabbed me and others just kept hitting,” he said.
Mkhungu suffered hand injuries, a bump on the head which is still bleeding, a swollen lip and welts on his face, back and legs.
What he felt was anger, he said, that strikers attacked innocent people.
“I have the right to work. They have a right to strike. I respect theirs, but they don’t respect mine,” he said, adding that his wife and 17-year-old son looked to him to make ends meet.
The owner of the service station, Tony Ball, said they had now taken security measures to ensure that, if a situation like that occurred again, they would be ready.
“The attendants now have whistles and, if they see danger coming, they must run to safety. Next time these people come back there will be trouble,” he promised.
Ball said the money the attendants were asking for was unreasonable.
“Where is the money going to come from?” he asked.
National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa regional chairman Basil Cele said union members were “disciplined” and denied they were part of the attack.
For Mkhungu, though, there is a long road to recovery.