Bra Sam deserved more than Cele’s visit




As always, I’m out of bed before the sun. For once, there’s no need to be up and about. Needless to say, I am. A return of the death flu — a present from my soon-to-be-13-year-old who arrived home from a school excursion laden with the current virus doing the rounds — has laid me up since Friday.

My doctor, a one-eyed cat who comes from Egypt, prescribed antibiotics and two days of bed rest for both of us, so there are no immediate deadlines.

My body clock doesn’t appear to have got the memo though, so I’m wide awake, tip-toeing around the flat to avoid waking sickboy — who’s still passed out, the disposable first aid mask he’s been wearing in bed wrapped around his head — and his mother.

I start coughing again. My intercostal muscles are pretty badly torn from four days of hacking, so it hurts like hell.

More out of habit than anything else, I power up the laptop. Open my work mail.

There’s a media alert from the South African Police Service.

Police Minister Bheki Cele is scheduled to visit the home of murdered Orlando Pirates and Bafana Bafana skipper Senzo Meyiwa. Senzo’s dad, Bra Sam, had died in the early hours of Monday morning, several months after suffering a stroke. Cele, rightly, is heading to the family home in Umlazi in south Durban to pay his respects to Bra Sam, whose health had deteriorated steadily since the day his son was murdered in Vosloorus in October 2014.

I only met Bra Sam once, in the days after his son’s murder. The entire world, it seemed, had descended on the family home. A large convoy of state vehicles was parked outside in the street. Inside, the then KwaZulu-Natal premier Senzo Mchunu was paying his respects to the Meyiwas. TV crews had set up shop in the narrow road across from the family’s tuckshop, closed because of the bereavement, waiting to doorstep the river of dignitaries flowing in and out of the home.

I didn’t know what to say to Bra Sam when we sat down for an interview on a pair of plastic chairs around the side of the house during a break in the flow of people arriving to comfort the family.

What do you ask a man whose son has just been murdered? What do you say? Why are you even there, intruding, a vulture forcing a grieving father to find words about the son he has just lost?

I remember looking at Bra Sam while his heart was breaking in front of me and thinking: What if this was my old man, Gerald, sitting here, and it was me who was dead?

What if I were Sam, and it was Mitchell, or Thomas, or Lindo, who had just been murdered? Why am I torturing this man, this father who has lost his world? Why am I adding another burden to him, turning the knife in the wound, rather than leaving him alone to deal with his pain, his loss?

Fortunately, somebody important arrived and Bra Sam was called away to talk to them before we got beyond condolences and introductions.

I wandered off, relieved that we had both been spared, happy to lose myself and my sense of shame in the crowd of punters milling around in the street outside.

Standing in the street, I couldn’t help but wonder how Bra Sam was going to cope with all of this. Not just the knowledge that somebody had taken his son’s life and was walking around as if nothing had happened, but the media frenzy, the politicians, the pressure of dealing with a world that he knew nothing about and had been thrown into. I remember thinking that whoever had murdered Senzo, had taken this old man’s life as well.

It’s been nearly five years now since Senzo was murdered. Nobody has been charged. Nobody has appeared in court. Nobody has even been formally arrested.

At this point, it’s pretty obvious that if the police were going to make an arrest and charge somebody for the killing, they would have done so by now. Clearly, they are not going to arrest and convict anyone for the murder, despite the fact that it took place in front of a house full of witnesses. Every day that passes the chances of a successful prosecution and conviction get weaker.

Cele is doing the right thing by paying his respects to the family.

It’s the very least he can do, both as minister of police and as a human being.

But the family needs more than that. Cele is turning up empty- handed, his two arms the one length, bearing empty words about the murder being solved one day, rather than giving the Meyiwa family the answers they are owed.

That they deserve.

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper

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