Special Report filed by AAF Correspondent: Bill MayAnimal Attack Files Special Report
from The Sunday Times

      Baboon bully sows terror

November 12, 2000


A BABOON that has bullied a community for months has struck again, sending a coffin flying as it went berserk at a funeral vigil while mourners scattered in terror.

The baboon from Kliptown in Soweto is fast becoming legendary with a reign that has lasted for months. It got so bad that locals have imposed a curfew to protect themselves from the marauding beast. It has been blamed for at least six attacks on people recently, including dropping through the ceiling onto a sleeping 15-year-old.

But the latest attack last Saturday night at a vigil for John Cele, 47, has caused an outcry, with some residents even calling for all the trees in the area to be cut down.

Turmoil erupted when the primate entered a packed tent where mourners were holding a memorial service.

A witness, Elisa Mathe, said: "It was very big and it came straight inside the tent at a high speed as if it was being chased. Everyone screamed for help."

She said the coffin fell as mourners fled. "I was seated next to the door and I saw it with my own eyes. I thought men would not be shocked, but they also fled. It managed to escape during the pandemonium," she said.

"The vigil had to be stopped because everyone was afraid that the baboon might strike again. I have never seen such a thing in my life."

The latest attack has instilled such fear that other residents have suspended evening vigils or parties.

Another witness, George Mutula, said at first when the animal entered the door he thought it was a dog, but when it came straight for mourners everybody fled in horror. "People were screaming, 'A monkey!'

"We were not prepared for this and that is why it came as a total surprise to everyone. I'm still shocked. It's pure luck that no one was trampled to death. This was a terrifying experience," said Mutula.

Mandla Mtshali, a community leader, said it looked like the animal was left behind by its owner to scavenge freely for food.

"They say it has been seen on many occasions playing in trees. I don't know whether this is true or not. Everyone is living in fear. It's dangerous and we have many cases of people who have been attacked."

The matter was reported to police.

Police Inspector Mbhazima Shiburi said: "If people see the baboon at night they must call the police immediately." He said there had been a similar problem several years ago in a neighbouring area and police were able to capture the animal.

Shiburi confirmed police knew of various other incidents involving the baboon.

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