Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A tragic, tragic death

Today my heart broke for a woman called Elizabeth Ramolefe. I watched her cry inconsolably as she tried to make sense of her shattered world following the tragic shooting that left her grandson dead and the man who has employed her for the past five years locked up for murder.
It’s not often that stories rattle me to the core, but this one most certainly did as I watched the distraught woman battle for words to describe the terrible events that had unfolded so suddenly.
Yesterday the 12-year-old boy she has raised as her own returned home from boarding school. During the holidays he shares the small outside room she lives in on the property of a family in Parkmore. That afternoon intruders tried to break in – leaving everyone who lives in the large home feeling uneasy.
Last night she was cooking in the kitchen when the boy called her in her own language. She immediately thought the intruders had returned and alerted the man whose home she has kept in order for the past five years. He told her to stay inside while he called for armed response. The security company took a while and the child continued screaming for her. So the man grabbed a hunting rifle and fired a single shot at a shadow he saw move across the window of Lizzie’s room.
It was not long before it emerged that the boy was dead and the man was to spend the night in the cells as a murder charge was laid against him.
I got the sterile version of what went down from the cops. And then I went out to the house where it happened. I joined up with other journalists waiting outside, all of us kept at bay by a family who did not want to speak to us.
After a while Lizzie came to speak to us. She did her best to tell her story. She believed her boss had been trying to protect her precious grandson. It was all a terrible, terrible accident.
A small child’s swing and a jungle gym in the garden made it plain that little children lived in the house. Toddlers whose father is locked up in a police cell.
It’s a desperately sad situation. It seems like so many people have been so badly hurt by an senseless act. But perhaps not so senseless in the context of Joburg crime. How many families live in a state of fear after criminals have entered their homes or even hurt them? How many people, shaken badly by a break-in or attempted robbery, feel so scared and angry that they will shoot to kill if they sense their loved ones are in the remotest danger? Who in this city cannot identify with that mindset?
Later on a contact called. He had been on the scene. The hunting rifle, he said, had been a big one. No warning shot had been fired, he said. The child had actually been locked in the outside room when he was shot. That bullet that hit him was one perhaps intended for a large animal – and he had been a small child. The damage done, the source claimed, was immense.
The shooter had apparently been walking around afterwards, chatting and not acting like someone who had just killed a child.
The dilemma is a tough one. What does one write? How much information should get published, and how do you keep the story completely fair and objective? In what way does a single sentence paint a person’s character?
Who are any of us to judge?
Right or wrong, good or bad, true or false - the story must go out…

1 comment:

  1. Its heartbreaking that its so senseless... I admire you for wanting to even try and keep it objective.