It sounds like a typical movie storybook tale. It is though not a typical Crocodile Dundee story nor a movie script along those lines as the victim came out with cruel markings that are bound to be a permanent feature on his body. It is an episode which began with excitement and laughter punctuated with boyhood bravado only to end in blood and tears. His life will never be the same again and 13-year-old Clayton Dube is lucky to have survived after literally encountering the jaws of a crocodile.
One fine sunny day on January the 29th, Clayton and his friends left their homestead bound for Kalope Dam. The expanse water body is less than 5km from the Dube homestead in Lukosi. On normal hot days, the boys even enjoy a swim in the dam though elders frown upon the practice due to the number of crocodiles that have been spotted. So as the saying goes that “boys will be boys,” Clayton and his friends went on a fishing expedition disregarding the perennial cautions by the village elders not to ever trying venturing inside the dam. It would be a day when tragedy would change Clayton’s life forever.
“We threw our fish trap inside the water. As I monitored the situation, it began to sink. I thought a big fish had been caught hence it was going down,” says Clayton.
Little did he know that far from being the usual fisherman’s sign of a big catch, danger awaited him under the still waters of Kalope Dam.
The young lad says he jumped into the water excited of a great prospect. A fisherman’s catch is usually his day’s moment of coronation if it is a record one. But to young Clayton, it would turn out to be his moment of pain.
“I felt something grabbing my leg. I struggled and then felt a painful bite at that moment. Immediately I knew it was a crocodile and I had to fight for my life,” he relates with a rare confidence for someone who survivor such an ordeal.
As he imagined what he had to do in such a moment , Clayton says he remembered crocodile survival takes that have always been spoken about in the village.
One of those old time lessons is that when one is attacked by a crocodile, they should look for its soft nose or push through its tongue a long stick. The only alternative the young victim had at that time were his God-given fingers which he had to make use of.
His father Mr Bernard Dube says young Clayton related how he survived while he was being ferried by an ambulance to the nearly Wankie Colliery Hospital after being rescued.
“He told his mother while in the ambulance that , he pulled his hand and thrust searched for a soft spot on the crocodile’s upper part. He was looking for the nose which he found and then inserted his fingers with vigour. It was then that the crocodile left him and swam away,” says Clayton’s father.
However the unpleasant scene was not yet over. After escaping the Jaws of the cruel water monster, Clayton had lost his right leg. He still had to find his way out of the dam and those watching from the shore were too scared to jump into the bloody water and rescue him. His grateful father however says they played a huge role in encouraging him to fight on till he got to safety on shallow water where he was then pulled out.
“Standing by the shore, they kept screaming and making noise to try and scare the crocodile. They even threw stones in the direction of the reptile to just keep it away from its bleeding victim,” he says.
A spirit of bravery and the will to survive must have taken hold of young Clayton who managed to swim minus the lower part of his right leg all the way to the shore. Those waiting by then pulled him out and called for an ambulance which took him to the Colliery Hospital for treatment.
Sadly, Clayton has lost a leg and he hobbles around the house and yard on crutches. When this news crew arrived at the Dube homestead in Lukosi his mother had just finished dressing his wounds. The family is however positive that nothing will deter their son from going back to schools when the new 2021 academic year re-opens. The young victim is going for his Grade 7 at Lwendulu Primary School and remains upbeat that he will rise to the challenge that has robbed him of his leg.
“I want to go back to school and learn even harder. Yes I will have a problem with walking, but I cannot stop going to school,” he beams with an ear to ear smile albeit telling a sad story.
To Clayton’s mother, this is nothing short of a miracle. It is a day that the family will always testify about as true testimony that the Almighty loves them dearly.
“I want to thank God for my child. I am grateful he survived. Yes there will be challenges when he goes back to school because he needs an artificial leg now. We pray to get it and are making frantic efforts though we hope well-wishers will assist us in that endeavour,” she says.
Crocodile attacks are not a new phenomenon in Africa though they increase mainly due to how much rains are received in a season. The Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority has constantly warned that water bodies are the natural habitat of these aquatic beasts.
“We encourage communities to stay away from water bodies especially in a season where there have been incessant rains. May crocodiles come through water bodies and we urge people to stay away from any water sources,” says Mr Tinashe Farawo, the Authority’s spokesperson.
While this might be a lesson that came late for young Clayton and his friends, the outstanding bravery he tapped into in order to survive the attack at Kalope Dam might just fit in as one of the tales in the village for many years to come. – zbc