BEST BUDDIES: Triathlon star Mhlengi Gwala feels the hand of support from his friend, Sandile Shange, as he recovers from a powersaw attack during an early morning ride near Howard College. Picture: Sibonelo Ngcobo/African News Agency (ANA)
Triathlon star Mhlengi Gwala’s attackers spoke a language he did not understand when they lay into his leg with a saw.

“It was a funny language. I didn’t hear the words. They were not speaking isiZulu,” he said from his bed at Durban’s Netcare St Augustine’s Hospital yesterday.

It’s not far from where the horrific assault took place, near the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Howard College campus. He recalled it was an African language.

“I didn’t understand (them) but I’m still confused.”

Although he did not recall their exact words, he remembered how they tore into his legs.

“They cut me and then the one who was cutting stopped and then he went to look (at something). I don’t know what he was checking. But then he came back and said (to the others), ‘let’s go,’ and then they ran away.”

Cut to the bone, Gwala lay on the roadside in agony. His attackers took none of his possessions, though he offered them his bike, phone and watch.

The gruesome attack unfolded at about 3am on Tuesday in Rick Turner (Francois Road), Durban, while Gwala was on his way to meet fellow cyclist and best mate Sandile Shange down the hill at King Edward Hospital, less than 3km away.

The two are triathlon athletes and work together as lifeguards.

After his assailants fled, he reached for his phone. “I tried to phone the police or Sandile, or I tried to phone the police and then I called Sandile,” Gwala said.

When the police failed to respond, Gwala decided he would have to take the next step to get help.

“I decided that I had to crawl with this one leg to the road. Some security guards (from Fidelity) stopped their cars and I told the guy, ‘take me to hospital’. They took me straight to Albert Luthuli Hospital.”

He was then transferred to Netcare St Augustine’s Hospital where he underwent surgery.

Gwala was still in pain but improving.

Police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala couldn’t divulge any details of the investigation as they were at a sensitive stage.

However, she appealed to anyone who might have information to report it to any police station or to call Crime Stop on 086010111.

Last night, Netcare was unable to offer comment on Gwala’s prognosis, however, doctors said that his recovery could take up to 18 months.

Earlier yesterday, fund-raisers from across the world passed the R500000 target they had set to help Gwala. Donations ranged from R20 to R5000.

In addition to a visit from Sports and Recreation Minister Toko Xasa, Gwala had a stream of friends and family popping in to his private ward with a view overlooking Durban harbour.

Among them were his sister Snengosi Gwala and fellow triathletes, brothers Raymond and Hlelani Radebe and Smiso Dlamini. “We’ll be supporting him,” said Raymond.

Xasa, who condemned the attack, said it was “inhumane to treat the budding athlete in that manner”.

The attack had caused pain not only to the athlete, but it also threatened to jeopardise his international career. Xasa urged police to leave “no stone unturned” in their investigation.

The minister also urged South Africans to be vigilant when exercising on roads, especially when they were alone.