On Saturday 29 March 2014 there was an armed home invasion while I was babysitting my 10-month-old nephew at my sister’s house in Bryanston, Johannesburg. Three armed men stormed the house at 7:05pm, five minutes after I put the baby down, and cleaned it out while making me and the gardener sit in the courtyard at gunpoint. They were incredibly aggressive, threatening and antagonistic, repeatedly shouting for the safe, for jewellery. “We will kill you” and “we will shoot you” were frequently screamed into my face, with very real looking pistols waved around indiscriminately.
Andrew and I cooperated and remained passive, and the massive mercy here is that baby and adults were left physically unharmed. Ryan had been turned around in his cot, and when I finally got to him once the attack was over, I couldn’t see him. I thought he was taken. This is a moment that will never leave me, and I relive the terror every minute.
I can’t as yet, 36 hours after the attack, know how deep the psychological trauma goes. But having always considered myself a pretty tough cookie, I have been caught off guard by fear and panic that linger and grow.
The attackers made us lie down on our stomachs then tied our hands and feet with my brother in law’s shirt ties before covering our heads with blankets so that we could not see and struggled to breathe. I thought for sure that that was the end for me, Andrew and Ryan. I prayed that it would be quick. These men were menacing, adrenaline fueled, volatile and indescribably frightening. These were bad people, make no mistake. There is no socioeconomic, political or historical justification for this kind of terrorism.
Contrary to professional advice, I am unable to stop obsessing about worst case scenarios, which include the abduction of my godson whom I love as if he is my own, rape, HIV, torture and death. In reality, all that was lost were material possessions (thankfully not my necklaces and charms given to me by my boyfriend) and my innocence as it pertains to my faith in this country.
For too long I have been living in denial about the depth of the pain and damage in this country. A country that was founded on land invasions 400/500 years ago and is now famous for its home invasions – the ultimate in fear mongering and intimidation. For too long I have defended our beloved country, telling people all over the world that “it is not that bad”. Let me tell you, it is worse than bad. For too long I was dismissive of other people’s fear and trauma.
Why am I putting this on Cape to Caracas? Before Saturday night, I would roll my eyes at this kind of post too. I’m doing this because I refuse to be further victimised by remaining silent. And I’m sharing this to relieve some of the guilt and regret I feel for being so painfully, deliberately naive about the reality of living in this country for so long. This land has been forsaken.