When a Taxi protest turned violent last week, it was the worst (and best) Monday of my life. All within less than an hour.
We live in a country where I should probably disclaim the title of this post. It’s not a reference to anyone, rather the happenings of Monday 18 September 2017.
Just before midday. I am at the office in front of the computer. My father-in-law is also here, busy on his laptop. The phone rings and I immediately sense that something was wrong. It’s a distress call — Valerida is hysterical and in serious trouble.
She is screaming and under attack. I instinctively get up and into the car while trying to calm her down and get more info on the phone. Boertjie joins without hesitation, it is his daughter after all. We speed off towards the main road. I hear ‘Phillippi’ and take the N1/R300 as it would be quicker than going through Stellenbosch.
I am still unsure about what the situation is. My first thought is that she had been hijacked or kidnapped and was still in the vehicle, but this doesn’t fit as she is still able to make a phone call. My second take is that she is running away from a mob while being stoned. I then realized she is in her car, being chased and trying to get away. But where?
Two minutes later
Boertjie is on the phone with Valerida, trying to get an exact location, while I call 10111. The operator answers immediately and is fully aware of the situation. She informs of road closures up ahead and I get off the R300 to cross the N2 closer to the M7.
Make no mistake, I am under no illusion — by the time I get there, whatever was busy happening would be all over. How is that for feeling powerless.
What’s your worst fear? Your wife being raped or murdered. Your child kidnapped? Your family harmed? Moments like these quickly affirm your worst nightmares. The next 50 minutes was a flurry of phone calls (I had to double-check the times afterwards because it felt like an eternity).
This is what happened
Valerida is on her way from Stellenbosch to Wynberg to collect a camera lens for Daniel. She is driving alone in a double cab on the Baden Powel (Muizenberg) road. The GPS takes her up Swartklip Road in-between Khayelitsha and Mitchell’s Plain. Not ideal for a woman alone.
A white Hyundai bakkie passes and she sees psyched-up angry protesters on the back, pointing at her. When she slows down at the red traffic light up ahead they jump off an run towards her.
It is clear the unthinkable is about to happen and she has to act immediately. She tries to escape by passing on the left, but the bakkie cuts her off by hitting her car from the right.
Fight-or-flight mode is in full swing and she accelerates again, going around the next corner — but straight into an angry mob who starts hurling bricks at her. She fears for her life.
They didn’t just throw stones in the general direction of the car. They aim directly at her. The passenger window breaks. She makes a u-turn and the situation escalates.
More people approaching, now from both sides. The windscreen and driver’s window also shatter. Stones are coming from all directions.
Sanity prevails and she keeps on driving (while hitting redial on her phone), over pavements, no stopping, eventually getting to a group of policemen who gathered at a nearby shopping center.
They took over: took her to safety, informed us what happened and waited at the police station. They even managed to change the broken wheel and bring back the car as well.
I walked into the Nyanga police station and found her in the trauma room. No words can describe the relief of holding her again. She was shaken up something terrible. It was time to get out of there.
I could carry on for ages about what could have happened; the cause of the protests; unnecessary violence; uneducated animals who joined in or the state of the nation. But frankly I am just happy my wife is safe and choose to end with a silver lining:
The police service was absolutely superb, from the operator who knew what was going on to the competent squad who escorted all to Nyanga and keeping me informed throughout, plus three follow-up calls over the next 24 hours. Thanks guys, we couldn’t have asked for better.
We’ve been joking about an adventure abroad for a while. This might just be the catalyst. Brand Suid-Afrika.
In the news
Featured image: Police on Japhta K. Masemola Road look for protesters involved in the burning of this vehicle. Photo Yann Macherez.