9 December, 2019 9 December, 2019

Who Shot Shabba?

“It was the middle of the night and I just heard the glass break. I got up and went to go check what was up.” Mduduzi Quintin Shabalala is surveying his domain from the lifesaving tower at Bay of Plenty, retelling the story of that time he got shot. “My thought was whoever broke the glass won’t be outside under the lights. So I went outside but there were four guys waiting there. The one in the front had a gun and as I came around the corner he pointed the gun at me. I just grabbed it and while we were wrestling for the gun, he fired. PAH!”

*Cover Image – Dianne Parkes/ Issue 43.2, The Crime Issue. Missing out on quality Zag content? There’s a simple fix, become a subscriber now. 

“The barrel got very hot and I instantly let go of it, but they just ran off. That’s when I noticed something had touched my leg. But I didn’t actually feel the bullet go in. I saw my neighbour had turned his light on, so I called to him, told him I’d been shot. He came over, got my car keys and drove me to hospital.”

“My old man was a fisherman and we used to go with him and swim at Scottburgh main beach. We grew up at Amandawe, the rural area just nearby. It’s not far, walkable distance to the beach.” Shabba is talking about how he and his twin brother Blessing found their way into the ocean. “We used to see some guys surfing, while we were at the beach and we just fell in love with the sport. Then this friend of mine had an old surfboard with a broken nose, someone had thrown it away and he picked it up and took it home. And I said to him, ‘we go to the beach a lot, how about I take this board with me.’ And the guy said I could have the board.” That’s how it all started.

“We used to play around in the mid-break catching foamies.” But soon they caught the attention of locals Kelvin Zehmke, Bradley Mommsen and Russell Sadler. “My first decent board, Russell gave it to me. So the guys from Scottburgh just pulled us in. And it just rolled from there. I surfed any chance I got. There was a guy, Riaan Dewet, he was the captain of Scottburgh Lifesaving Club and he suggested we join. Since we were at the beach everyday, we thought, let’s try this. It goes hand in hand with surfing. And it would give us a place to store our boards and equipment. I just instantly fell in love with the sport. That’s how I survived.”

Shabba started working seasons in Durban and by 2008 was signed up permanently at Bay. He took his salary and did two important things: he got medical aid and bought a small investment property in Makhutha, next to Amanzimtoti, where he built a two-bedroom house to rent out.

“I was just lucky they ran away,” he says. “The bullet went straight through the top of the shin and broke the tibia. Shattered
it properly. But I got good treatment, did the rehab and the physio.” But it still took a year before he could get back to work. And another year before he could ride a surfboard without pain.

“They never caught those guys,” he says. “The investigators were ducking and diving. Eventually, I got to a point where I thought, you know, I’m just wasting my time with this. Let me just go and live my life since I’m able to surf. I’m still alive… why bother.”

And, you can see, Shabba rips. “Some days it’s a bit sketchy. You go for a floater and you look down and go ‘Ay! It’s too far down there’ and you just bail. So I’m a bit more cautious these days,” he laughs. “Maybe that’s just age.”

Along with fellow lifesaver Alvin Mtatshi, they established the Sisonke Surf Club, which started off with the two collecting boards from people in Durban and delivering them to kids down the coast in Umzumbe and Trafalgar, but has since grown into an established surf club. And now he’s considering a career change. “I decided last year to go and try get into the police service,” Shabba smiles. “Ethekwini Metro have opened up a Search & Rescue department. That’s quite relevant and could be good for me with my background in lifesaving. That’s where I want to go.”

“Being a victim of crime and knowing so much about what’s happening at the beach here in Durban… I’ve seen things happen down here and it would be easy for me to prevent those things, because I’ve got that experience on the beach.”

1 Comment

  1. Gavin Roberts
    11 December, 2019 at 1:27 pm · Reply

    Shaba is one of the best watermen in South africa and one of the nicest guys around. What legend! Keep up all the good work shaba!

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