Thembinkosi Gqotso, who rescued a man from drowning, showed “no fear” when he spotted the fully dressed victim in distress in the waves at Sea Point on Friday, his friends say.
Gqotso, a homeless man who lives in the area, was hailed a hero after he dragged the 38-year-old man from the water at Queens Beach at about 08:30.
His friend Vuyani Rooi said he and Gqotso had been “chilling on the grass” when they spotted the man in the surf.
Despite making it safely to shore, Gqotso could not be traced.
“I shouted to Thembinkosi that the guy looked like he could be in trouble and he jumped up and flew into the water.”
“He put his hands together like he was praying,” Rooi explained, putting his palms together. “Then he just jumped in.”
“When he got to the man, he started pulling him out of the sea. He didn’t even think twice before going to help. He put his life at risk for the stranger. He is a hero.”
Paramedics arrived shortly thereafter.
Nhleko Sophazi said he cheered from the sidelines as he saw Gqotso wade back to the shore with the man.
“I clapped hands because he was so brave. People always look at people like us with disgust in their eyes, but those who saw what happened treated him with respect when he came out of the water,” he said.
“For once, nobody tried to chase us away from the benches. They must recognise that if Thembinkosi hadn’t been here, that man would have been dead.”
The victim was taken to New Somerset Hospital for further treatment.
The man, who is from Limpopo, was attending a conference in Cape Town. It is still unclear why he was in the water with all his clothes on.
ER24 spokesperson Russel Meiring said Gqotso had also been assessed by paramedics and was found to have escaped injury.
Another homeless man, Zweli Moloi, said most of the drifters living close to the sea were very good swimmers.
“Even us darkies, we are better than most people in the water. Maybe instead of chasing us away, the council must give us jobs in December. If they give us those red shorts and a towel, we can help them when the beach is so full,” he said.