Femicide – A family relives its pain
R270 at Exclusive Books
Angie Makwetla, a South African Human Rights Commissioner, has been affected by gender-based violence on a personal level. The Makwetla family has had to lay to rest two family members who were both victims of femicide. In this extract from her book, Makwetla captures the emotions of her niece Crystal, whose mother, Nettie, Makwetla’s youngest sister, was killed by her husband in 2001.
My mother, Antoinette Eleanor Bedworth ... died on April 19 2001. I remember that Thursday like it was yesterday. I had recently moved to live with my mum in December 2000 after I had completed my high school ... I was raised by my grandmother who passed away in January 2000 at the age of 86. I only visited my mum during weekends and school holidays.
“I was on my way home from Rosebank College where I was studying … when I saw a crowd of people in front of our block of flats in Newlands. I immediately knew that something had happened. I started running and hurried up the stairs to our flat. I heard people saying, ‘her daughter is here’, ... I found her lying on the floor in a pool of blood. She was crying and telling me she was in a lot of pain and that I should help her. I instinctively knew that my stepfather had done this to her …
“The ambulance arrived. The paramedics carried her down the stairs on a chair in a sitting position. She was in severe pain, and crying.
“We got to JG Strijdom Hospital, now known as Helen Joseph ... She was attended to immediately in the casualty department.
“I was now calling family, telling them that they had to come and that, this time, my mother was really hurt.
“My mother was married to a drug-addicted man who abused her physically, emotionally and sexually. She would also drink a lot at times. We were used to his beating her up but we never thought he would go this far.
“They had apparently had an argument over money – as always. He got violent, as usual – and then it happened. He stabbed her!
“I left my sister, Berine, and my three-year-old brother, Draig, at home. My friend Alexis came with me. Kelvin, my then boyfriend who was visiting us, got stabbed while trying to help my mother, so he also needed medical attention …
“The nursing staff called me in and asked me to speak to her. She looked at me and said, ‘Crystal, my children’. I then made a promise to her that I would look after her kids. I was 18 years old.
“I then went to the waiting room. The casualty doctor came in and asked who was with the patient Antoinette. I got up … ‘I am sorry. She didn’t make it’. I couldn’t believe what he had just said. I wished he would come back again and say ‘She is fine and we are moving her to the recovery ward’…
“A while later we got a lift from a stranger who offered to take us home. When we got there my baby brother was lying peacefully asleep on the couch with an Easter egg in his hand, not aware of how our lives had changed.
“I picked him up, held him tightly, and cried, wondering what was going to happen to my brother who was only three years old. The reality slowly started sinking in. Our mother was dead …
“She looked so beautiful and so peaceful. Her battle was over. My mother was free from all the abuse and suffering.
“We went home after that with the family and left Umfolozi Court in Waterval, Westbury, that evening for good – without the most important person in our lives.
“Nothing prepared us for this huge loss. Despite all the physical abuse we never thought that my stepfather would go that far and take the person we loved dearly from us.
“For days after my mother’s funeral I believed she would come back.
“I still think about my mother every day.”