ANSER Mahmood can’t talk about the vicious beating that led to his best friend’s death without breaking into tears. It is a murder a former cabinet minister has described as "the stench of Islamophobia”.
On Monday, Mahmood and Mohammed Kazi had stopped at Chicken Licken in Magaliesburg.
They merely wanted to break their daily Ramadan fast and ended up being the victim of a deadly, racist attack that has shattered Gauteng’s Muslim community and the small tourist town where it happened.
The attack on Kazi is the stuff of nightmares and it is one that will remain with Mahmood for the rest of his life as he attempts to recall the attack which a witness has described as "the sounds of an animal in pain”.
"I can’t. I just can’t. I can still hear Mohammed. I can hear him talking to me, asking me for help and then nothing,” Mahmood said, choking back the tears as he spoke about the 27-year-old who had been married for less than a year.
"If I close my eyes I see everything happening again. I want it to stop, but it doesn’t.”
The two men, who run a general furniture dealership in Ventersdorp where they lived, were travelling home when they stopped at the Chicken Licken outlet.
As Kazi, his family’s sole breadwinner, walked into the restaurant two white Afrikaans-speaking men allegedly began taunting him, pulling at his beard and hurling racial insults at him.
The unprovoked attack, which has seen the suspects going on the run, has sparked a warning from a South African Islamic organisation about possible revenge attacks.
Mahmood said when he walked into the restaurant after Kazi, he (Kazi) told him to ignore the men.
"We tried to move past them to place our orders, but the men would not stop.
"They told Mohammed he was Bin Laden. They said what happened to Bin Laden would happen to Mohammed. They grabbed his beard and slapped him.”
Forced out of Chicken Licken by staff, Mahmood said all he could remember after being pushed out the restaurant was waking up on the ground.
"I don’t know what happened. This happened because of our colour and because we are Muslim. There is no other reason.
"They hated us because of who we are. We were not there to fight. We are not fighters. I don’t know why they did this.
"Why did they have to do this? Why did they want to kill us.”
Family spokesman Zahid Asmal said the family was shattered.
"They do not know what to do. Mohammed was the sole breadwinner.
"He has not even been married for a year. What is his family going to do? How are they going to survive.”
He said the family had so many questions.
He said Kazi had died in Potchefstroom on Tuesday after falling into a coma as Mahmood rushed him to hospital.
He is believed to have died from severe head injuries.
Gauteng police spokesman Brigadier Neville Malila said police had managed to identify one of the suspects with the help of Magaliesburg residents and police.
"The assistance has been overwhelming. Everyone, no matter who they are, has helped.
"Some have given descriptions of the vehicle and some of the suspect,” Malila said.
Malila said police from Gauteng and North West province were searching for the suspect, identified as a 33-year-old Rustenburg mine employee.
"We have activated our ‘war-room’ to track down this man. We have alerted all government agencies and are confident of making an arrest soon,” he said.
Restaurant owner Jaco Venter, whose staff witnessed the assault and called for help, said he could not believe that such a thing could occur in their "peaceful little village”.
"We are a tourist town, not a big city where these things happen. Nothing like this has happened before. It is beyond imagination.”
Former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils said on Wednesday the "savage” attack on Kazi and another Muslim man carried "the stench of Islamophobia”.
Ibrahim Vawda, senior researcher at the Media Review Network, said Kazi’s death had serious implications.
"There is widespread anger among Muslims in the Gauteng region. We have called on Muslims to exercise restraint.” Additional reporting by Nashira Davids