Khusta Jack | When thugs hit close to home, even giants crack

Last Saturday I attended the funeral of a 20-year-old second year LlB student of the University of the Free State (UFS), Aphiwe Sihle Gcakazi, near Motherwell.
I did not know the young man.
I did not know about his tragic death, until I got a call from Phila Nkayi, one of the most respected and revered heroes of the struggle in ANC circles.
From the moment Nkayi told me about this death, I had nightmares.
I have never heard or seen Nkayi being overwhelmed by emotions.
He has been our most trusted leader in the most difficult times.
It was he who was deployed to calm the youth after the hijacking and killing of the Cradock Four, the Pebco Three and when my own uncle was cold-bloodedly murdered by the security police.
I respected and trusted the man, he being a granite stone when it came to tragedies that befell our nation for years.
However, it was a pitiful sight to see him reduced to helplessness by this senseless death of his brother’s grandchild.
Aphiwe, according to three of his university colleagues, was left in the queue to buy takeaways while they went out to call for a taxi.
On their return, a thug was pulling Aphiwe by his shirt and Aphiwe was calling for him to let him go.
In a split second, the thug plunged a knife into Aphiwe’s chest twice and once into his neck.
The four to five young friends were left devastated and traumatised.
I attended the funeral to give support to Nkayi and his family.
Many other people did the same.
Former pupils from Selborne College in East London, where he matriculated, and a strong contingent from UFS, together with their SRC leadership, attended the service at the Coega Village, near Motherwell.
An emotional Nkayi, uncharacteristically, could not disguise his hurt, disappointment and anger, and that of his family.
He said, “We are gathered here as a result of high levels of lawlessness and naked criminality.”
Nkayi told the mourners that it appeared that the people had given in to this sad state of affairs.
He said an impression was created in the public perception that the criminals were protected.
Nkayi, pointing to his 95year-old mother, said crime affected the most vulnerable.
He told the mourners that his mother and his 105-yearold aunt always confronted him about the runaway crime, that was going on unabated.
The elders want to know why the government doesn’t punish the criminals.
Every weekend young people are being buried.
Nkayi said there was totally a wrong approach by society to criminals these days.
He pointed out that in the 1980s “you could not even steal clothes from the washing line. Fighting crime was the responsibility of all of us.”
He posed a challenge to students to take crime up as an urgent national crisis.
He charged them to engage in a campaign of #crimemustfall on all campuses in the country.
In doing that, the students would be securing their future.
Police on their own would not help us.
He praised his grandnephew for having been a hard-working and an exemplary child, even to his own children.
“Aphiwe loved his books and he was destined to be a successful and responsible lawyer.
“Crime has robbed us,” a distraught Nkayi, close to tears, said, my hardened freedom fighter, political mentor and soft-spoken Nkayi, as he stood helpless at the coffin of his young relative, who died senselessly.
Aviwe Mqushulu, the UFS’s SRC treasurer, told the mourners that “safety of both on and off campus students is not guaranteed”.
Emotions ran high as his niece, Andisiwe Banisi, said she dedicated her own degree to Aphiwe, since she was 100% sure that he was going to graduate and be the lawyer that he studied so hard to be.
She draped the coffin with her own academic cape to symbolise what would have been his moment of achievement.
The luxury of debating the colour of the criminal shows how backward we have gone.
Crime hurts – whatever the colour and whoever you are.
Crime is our nation’s biggest enemy.

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