One gogo's pain: The brutal truth behind the stats
She was only able to identify her grandson by his nose and mouth because they looked like his mother’s
Steam rises from a pot on the stove as Sibongile Mkhize sits on a wooden bench, her Waterloo home north of Durban rendered cold since the murder of her grandson Ntokozo.
The 12-year-old, who had dreams of becoming a doctor, was stabbed to death and dumped in the Ohlange River in November – the same fertile waters he’d fished to help feed his family.
“Life without him has been hard. He was special. He always used to say: ‘Don’t worry, gogo, one day I will become a doctor ... I will make you proud’,” said the 71-year-old, her gaze fixed on the middle distance.
His murder is but one of the 20,336 reported to police during the 2017/2018 period.
Ntokozo, one of 57 South Africans who are murdered every day, is a face to the murder rate which has increased almost seven percentage points compared with the same period the year before, according to police crime statistics released on Tuesday.
Ntokozo would steal away from school to the Ohlange River and catch fish, which sustained his grandmother and younger brother.
The image of his body lying on the mortuary table, his chest pockmarked with stab wounds and his neck cleaved open, is seared into his grandmother’s memory.
“Whenever I look at his father I think of him. I buried him with one of his brand-new schoolbooks and his clothes ... I couldn’t bear seeing them here at the house,” Mkhize said.
When her pension grant fell short of providing for the family, Ntokozo would head to the river, a thin streak of water that etches a line from the plush beaches of Umhlanga through bush to the township of Waterloo.
“I would usually refuse to let him out because I didn’t like it that he was so far away at the river by himself, and sometimes when I would tell him not to go he would sneak out. When he left that day, it was a Sunday, the day turned into night and he never came home,” she said.
His body was found floating in the river by a fellow fisherman a week after he disappeared.
No arrests have been made yet.
“The police haven't come to see me; we don’t know who did this to him,” Mkhize added.
“Ntokozo was first given some fishing gear by his friend; that’s how he was able to catch fish and he would bring the fish home to eat with the family.
“He was a bright child, he listened to me and he was obedient. I have been looking after him and his brother since their mother passed away four years ago.
“When I saw him I couldn’t even recognise him. I was only able to identify him by his nose and mouth because it looked like his mother’s. That image will always haunt me,” she said.