Finalist in gap year hell after South African machete attack

He told her she was ‘going to die’


A third year was threatened by a machete wielding attacker while volunteering in South Africa.

International Development student Jessica Cremin was handpicked to help schoolkids in impoverished parts of the African country.

But she thought she was going to die as she waited outside a church to escort children to school.

Jessica told The Tab: “About 200 metres down the road I could hear loads of shouting. I saw a guy waving a weapon – he had a machete in each hand.

“He was speaking in South African, so I asked my friend what he was saying – but she was getting really nervous.”

Jessica alongside schoolchildren while volunteering in South Africa

The University of East London student realised she was in danger when the man starting directing his anger towards her.

The 21-year-old added: “He started using broken English, chanting about the royal family. He was shouting about Princess Diana, getting all angry. Then he’d shout about Prince Charles and do the same.

“The man was being racist, calling me a white bitch and yelling ‘why is she here?’

“Then he got right in my face, saying ‘white’ in nearly every sentence – I could smell the alcohol on his breath.

“He told me I was going to die, waving the machete close to my neck.

“I just kept on saying sorry, I don’t know why. This went on for a minute.

“I thought there was no point even trying to negotiate with him, I just accepted I was going to die. So I closed my eyes.”

Jessica had only been in South Africa for 10 days when the attack happened

But Jessica was saved when the crazed attacker walked away, declaring he would be coming right back.

“As soon as he turned a corner we ran into a shack and locked the door.

“He was walking around outside shouting ‘I’m going to kill you.’

“We called the police but they didn’t turn up, but my charity supervisor came an hour later

“Then we escaped out the back door and jumped into a car to get away.”

Jessica with fellow volunteer Natasha

Jessica, originally from Wandsworth, had been chosen from thousands of applicants for the International Citizen Service’s Lattitude programme.

Jessica flew home three days after the attack with several other Brits who felt unsafe.

And this wasn’t the first time Jessica had witnessed violence during her short stay in the country.

“I was put in a host home with alcoholics. One night armed robbers came in while I was away, taking money and passports.

“Someone got shot and killed in a gang rivalry right outside where I was staying.

“We heard the gunshots. I was playing cards and the electric had gone out when it happened. Everyone had to stay in the house.

“The next day there were violent protests in the townships. In the 18 days I was there, I’ve never seen so much violence – it was absolutely crazy.”

Jessica has strong advice for any students wanting to take a gap year volunteering.

“I wouldn’t try to put students off going to South Africa – it’s a beautiful country.

“But I would recommend you do your research before going. Your heart must be really set and you have to really be sure.

“Always take the dangers into consideration by researching the town and charity you’re going with.

“I wouldn’t go back to South Africa, it would bring back too many bad memories.

“As much as charities tell you that you’ll be save, you can’t be so naive.

Speaking on the incident, a spokesman from Lattitude Global Volunteering said: “None of the volunteers were physically harmed.

“Lattitude responded quickly by moving all volunteers from their accommodation in the community while the incident was investigated and further risk assessments were carried out.

“The local community is now walking with volunteers to their work placement to ensure they can move around the area safely. Volunteers were consulted on whether the incident should be reported to the police and decided not to make a formal report.

“Lattitude takes volunteer safety extremely seriously and full risk assessments are undertaken on all its projects.”