Tavern shooting survivor shows courage

Inga Mkoko taking pictures at the soccer fields even at night.

Life after the amputation of both legs was a traumatic and dark time for Inga Mkoko but he became resolute after realising that his situation will never change and he doesn’t regret any of it as his dreams are all slowly coming true.

Mr Mkoko is one of the victims of the Mdlalose tavern shooting that took place in Nomzamo Park, Soweto, in July last year and which left 16 people dead and several others injured.

At the time of the shooting he was working as a landscaper and also selling sweets and other things on the streets of Johannesburg.

On the fateful day, Mr Mkoko said he went to the tavern to play a game of pool and charge his phone because his shack had no electricity.

The survivor, from Engcobo in the Eastern Cape, said he was shot 13 times and was in a coma for three weeks. He had both legs amputated and lost four fingers on his left hand.

The 26-year-old Mkoko is now in Cape Town after his mother Funeka Mkoko, 52, was diagnosed with depression. “I had to come here for my mother because she was too worried about me. When I was told that she was suffering from depression I decided to come here so that she can see that I am well and alive,” he said.

Reliving the shooting, which took place in the early hours of the morning on July 11 2022, Mr Mkoko said he still remembers the two assailants coming in the tavern and randomly firing shots.

“They came in, closed the door and started shooting. I remember I was left with a black ball to finish the game. But it was not to be. Instead I suffered a hail of bullets in my legs. According to the doctors, I was hot 13 times. The next thing I saw myself at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital,” he remembered.

The resolute Mr Mkoko said he has accepted that life will never be the same again.

He roves around Nyanga taking pictures as a freelance photographer all while being confined to his wheelchair. “The work that I do now keeps me busy. I thought about it while sleeping in the hospital bed. From an early age I wanted to be a photojournalist but I could not get it. When I saw that my legs were amputated, what came to my mind was a camera. That is why today you see me behind the camera,” he said.

The self-taught photographer picked up skills on the go and developed himself. He said he liked to face adversity head on. “My disability did not mean the end of the pursuit of his dreams. I see it is opening up some doors for me, but you are not going to tell me I can’t do it,” he said.

Mr Mkoko sees his disability as a strength that makes him a more empathetic leader. He travels five kilometres from his home of Lusaka informal settlement to the Nyanga stadium to take pictures of the teams playing sport.

He said he is grateful to the Nyanga Local Football Association (LFA) president Sibongile Mgxekeni for the opportunity. He believes that people should share their stories and believes his story can help people be more open. “We cannot be feeling sorry for ourselves. Life must continue. I am loving Cape Town and its people so far. I am happy that I am in front of my mother. She sees now that I am 100% okay,” he said.

His mother said she was left with a broken heart after hearing of her son’s injuries. However, she is healing now that her son is with her and being given a second chance at life. He has become a stronger man, she said.

“There are disappointing things about the whole case. I went up to Johannesburg and I saw the killers but recently I got a call to say they are all out, free. But the good news is that my son was given a second chance in life. God knows why. He was shot 13 times but here he is. That’s God’s mercy,” she said at her Lusaka home on Monday.

Ms Mkoko said she would be happy if she could have certain things like a proper toilet for her son. She said she has accepted his situation but a lot needs to be done for him to live a better life.

“We are living in an informal settlement where there are no toilets. In an area where there is always overflowing sewage and floods. Somebody like him needs to be in a proper house,” she said. She is hoping that one day they will receive a house for him.

Mr Mgxekeni said when Mr Mkoko approached him to come to the fields to take pictures, he was delighted. “He came to me and I told him to come and do his work. He wants to take pictures of teams and send them to the teams. I saw that as a good idea. He will help us a lot,” he said.

Inga is happy to be able to transform his life through the lens.
The Nomzamo Tavern survivor also lost four fingers on his left hand.