Tuesday, July 13, 2010



Monday, 12th July, 2010
Katende lived to tell the story

Katende lived to tell the story

By Norman Katende
at the Lugogo rugby grounds

THE gates swing open before 6:00pm. It is calm until musicians take to the stage. I sit just in front of the gigantic screen for good viewing, but on second thought, decide to go behind, at the extreme left of the screen, far away from the entrance.

Meanwhile, people are pouring into the venue in hordes. It is the World Cup final afterall.

Policemen and many bouncers are on patrol so nothing spoils the party.

Indeed, if someone told you that the situation would change, you would bet like someone betting against Spain after Paul The Octopus said they would win the World Cup.

At about 9:00pm, the fireworks light up the sky and Oh! God, it is lovely to watch as it paints the skies with different patterns and colours. The revellers dance to the official World Cup song from Shakira, “Waka Waka -This is time for Africa”.

The announcer ironically wonders why they dance so well as if there will be no tomorrow! The crowd laughs off the joke raucously.

A well-dressed woman in a Spanish jersey blows her vuvuzela, as some men dance away to the music of Alpha and Mulangira Ssuna, among other stars. The roar of vuvuzelas overwhelms the venue as the soccer teams match onto the stadium in Johannesburg, all splendidly splashed on the giant screen.

The first half passes with calm, only broken by exclamations of disappointment as the teams miss great chances.

At half-time, Bebe Cool takes to the stage and sings his Kasepiki song. The crowd goes wild. The party animals record him on mobile phone, and take his pictures. The melee prompts him to move from the stage to a chair a metre away from the fans.

It is time for the second half. The Netherlands almost score after bringing on Arsenal Captain Cesc Fabregas four minutes to time. Otherwise, the scoreboard remains 0-0.

And this is the last thing I remember about the match.
“Boom” the bomb goes off. People scamper for safety. I remain seated, thinking it is a short circuit.

The lights go off. It is pitch-dark. I cannot see what happened. The screen is blurred. Before I recover my senses after the blast, another one rocks the night, about a minute later. This is even more scary. I move away to nowhere in particular, just because I am the only man still seated, and probably alive. I start taking pictures as people scatter in all directions.

In my dazed state, I reassure people that it is just a short-circuit and they should take it easy. But a security guy knows better. He urges people to stay calm, take cover, stay put.

By this time, other revellers have broken the barriers and jumped to the main rugby field. Some others jump into the water channels, while others crawl away for dear life.

Two minutes later, the lights are back. Alas! What a sight! I am perplexed. Chairs are scattered. Broken. Bloody. Bodies and body parts litter the ground. About 20 people are still in their seats, dead or about to. Blood oozes out of some. At first I think they are just sleeping. Then a man shouts at the top of his voice: “It is a bomb blast; people are dying.”

Then it dawns on me how lucky I have been. I thank God and pray I never encounter such a thing again. I look around again. Desperate survivors call for emergency help in vain. Relatives carry the injured and dead to vehicles parked nearby.

A man tries to help a groaning woman. When he touches her chair, it collapses along with her. She breathes her last.

I scan the ground and see the men I had earlier photographed dancing to Shakira’s tune. They lie helpless. Lifeless. DEAD!

The handful of Police at the scene stand outside, apparently confused about what to do, until they get backup, 25 minutes later. They watch helplessly at the gruesome, savage scene.

As I write, I cannot believe I am still alive and well, because broken chairs and bloodied bodies occupy the two locations which I abandoned just two hours earlier.