‘Where is your Mandela now?’

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Father Victor Phalana shows his injury after he was assaulted by a group of men in Pretoria. File picture: Phill Magakoe

Pretoria - A Catholic priest and his assistant were assaulted in Gezina, Pretoria, on Saturday in what is believed to have been a racist attack.

After punching him to the ground, his attackers asked: “Where is your Mandela now?”

Father Victor Phalana, from the Sacred Heart Catholic Church cathedral in Pretoria, told The Star’s sister paper, the Pretoria News, that he was driving to a wedding reception around 5.30pm with his assistant, named only as Martin, when they heard hooting from a bakkie and a red car behind.

Martin said he thought the men were trying to catch their attention to alert them to something. Phalana said he noticed that the men were angry as they were making vulgar hand gestures. He got out of his car. Three men also got out of their cars.

Phalana said one of the men asked him if he was a pastor. The man was in his twenties and was well built. Phalana said he was wearing his priest’s collar as he had officiated at a wedding ceremony.

After replying “yes”, Phalana asked the men if there was anything wrong, and they turned away from him as if to walk to their vehicles. But when Phalana turned to walk to his own vehicle, one of them punched him in the eye. The priest fell to his knees.

Martin said the rest closed on him, punching him twice. He displayed a blue eye and a swollen lip, and one side of his face was bruised.

The traumatised pair said the young man had first rolled up his T-shirt, showing Phalana a tattoo.

“It was only afterwards that I wish I had taken a closer look at it,” Phalana said. He suffered a bloodshot eye, a minor wound to his eyelid and swollen lips. After bleeding over his white shirt, he abandoned plans to attend the wedding reception.


Speaking from the church office, Phalana, who is a resident priest and administrator of the cathedral, said the men appeared to be “high”.

“They were possibly on a manhunt, and we were the unlucky ones.”

After beating him to the ground, Phalana said, the men asked: “Where is your Mandela now?”

They then sped off.

“I had read about racism but it’s the first time I have experienced something like this,” said Martin, who has been in the country for five years and is originally from Cameroon.


The spiritual leader is treating his wounds and resting his body. He said he regretted that he could not get the licence plate numbers of the vehicles before they left.

The Star

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