Lit­tle hero of Jan Kem­p­dorp

A heroic six-year-old boy trag­i­cally paid with his life as he tried to pro­tect his mother from a vi­o­lent at­tacker

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Her face awash with tears, Se­go­motsi Gare­sape ap­proached the life­less body of her six-year-old son as he lay sprawled be­tween the rail­way tracks.

She had just seen him killed. Kutl­wano was tossed in the air, throt­tled and dis­em­bow­elled.

The lit­tle boy had been stand­ing in the way of Te­selo Dikole (32), who had al­legedly tried to stab and rape Se­go­motsi one Au­gust morn­ing as she walked with her sons to school in the North­ern Cape town of Jan Kem­p­dorp.

Like David in the shadow of Go­liath, Kutl­wano doggedly fought with his tiny fists to get his mother out of her at­tacker’s clutches. He suc­ceeded, but paid with his life. Se­go­motsi rushed to­wards the rail­way line as Kutl­wano’s at­tacker fled, leav­ing be­hind a trail of blood and gore.

She and her older son Thabiso (8) watched help­lessly as Kutl­wano was thrown in the air, fell to the ground, and was then picked up and tossed a sec­ond time. Af­ter he hit the ground again, his stom­ach was slashed open with a bro­ken bot­tle.

With his in­testines ex­posed, his as­sailant grabbed a tree branch and started stab­bing at his torn stom­ach re­peat­edly. His at­tacker then picked him up and threw him on the rail­way line, leav­ing him to die.

These are the heart-wrench­ing flash­backs that keep Se­go­motsi awake at night.

She has wept so much that she has no more tears to shed as she re­counts the story. She now wor­ries about Thabiso, who held his brother’s hand as he died af­ter ask­ing for one last kiss.

Three months later, Se­go­motsi re­mem­bers her son as a “lov­ing and wil­ful young man who was his brother’s best friend”.

Kutl­wano loved wrestling and had of­ten taken on older boys and bul­lies at school.

“Just a few days be­fore, he fought an older boy at school be­cause he had taken his brother’s pen. I was called to in­ter­vene and rep­ri­mand him. He was not a naughty boy or a trou­ble­maker, but wanted no one to touch his brother,” Se­go­motsi said.

“Every­thing stopped for him when wrestling was on tele­vi­sion. He called him­self John Cena [an Amer­i­can pro­fes­sional wrestler] and was very pas­sion­ate about the sport.”

On the morn­ing of Au­gust 12, Se­go­motsi, who works in the kitchen at Tau di a Rora School just out­side Jan Kem­p­dorp, was walk­ing to school with her two boys.

“We were close to the school, which is about 8km from home, when Kutl­wano started com­plain­ing that he was tired of walk­ing and I car­ried his bag and held his hand, con­vinc­ing him that we were al­most there,” she said.

“I kept him busy with small talk as we walked. Sud­denly, a man emerged from be­hind us.

“We were all re­laxed be­cause we saw that he was a What should we as a na­tion be do­ing in mem­ory of brave Kutl­wano? SMS us on 35697 us­ing the keyword BRAVE and tell us what you think. Please in­clude your name and prov­ince. SMSes cost R1.50 fa­mil­iar face we of­ten saw in town help­ing peo­ple push trol­leys at the shops. The man came and asked me for R2. I told him I didn’t have it and we con­tin­ued walk­ing, but when I turned back, I saw him stand­ing there with his face up, teeth clenched. His fa­cial ex­pres­sion had changed to that of a re­ally an­gry man.”

As they walked, Se­go­motsi said she heard Thabiso scream, and when she turned around, the same man was now wield­ing a bro­ken bot­tle and was just about to stab her.

“He grabbed Kutl­wano’s school bag and I went for the hand with a bro­ken bot­tle and we started wrestling. Thabiso kept his dis­tance while scream­ing. Kutl­wano was right there next to us and started at­tack­ing the man,” she said.

“When the man started pulling my denim skirt, Kutl­wano stood there with tears in his eyes scream­ing at him re­peat­edly: ‘This is my mother! Leave my mother!’

“He kicked, slapped and wres­tled with his leg in a bid to get him off me.” Se­go­motsi said her son kept frus­trat­ing her at­tacker. “It was clear now that his plan was to rape me, but he turned to Kutl­wano and said: ‘You are stub­born, neh?’ Kutl­wano re­sponded by slap­ping him and told him to let go of me ... he tried to deepen his voice to scare him, but Kutl­wano wouldn’t budge,” she said.

Kutl­wano then did what he saw on TV and fly­kicked the man.

“That was when he grabbed him and yelled, ‘You are stub­born, I can see’. But Kutl­wano still bravely told him to his face: ‘This is my mum! This is mum!’ He then grabbed Kutl­wano by his shoul­ders and threw him in the air,” Se­go­motsi said.

“When he landed for the sec­ond time, Kutl­wano was pinned to the ground, throt­tled and I could see his red glove as he strug­gled to push the man away. I could see my boy lose power and get weaker by the sec­ond. The man then started stab­bing him, slash­ing his stom­ach and left him to die.”

The at­tacker fled and Se­go­motsi rushed to her son’s side.

“My son was ly­ing there and I could see his hand mov­ing slowly as I ap­proached. He softly said ‘Mama’ twice and asked me to hold him. I held him to my chest. His brother alerted me to Kutl­wano’s in­testines that were pour­ing out and he took off his shirt and jacket to cover him,” she said.

“While hold­ing him on the rail tracks he said: ‘Mama, please kiss me’ and asked for one more kiss. Thabiso came close and knelt to give him a kiss ... I asked him, ‘Are you okay, Kutl­wano?’ and he stretched out his hand and held his brother’s and took his last breath.” Se­go­motsi said they miss their lit­tle hero ev­ery day. “We miss his noise and every­thing. We have been robbed of a pre­cious young life and his brother is suf­fer­ing the most af­ter wit­ness­ing the hor­rific at­tack,” she said.

“Thabiso’s trauma is not over yet as he still has to tes­tify in court, but I am sure he will want to see Kutl­wano’s killer pay for his evil deeds. For some­one who can end an in­no­cent life in such a cruel man­ner, he is a mon­ster who de­serves pun­ish­ment, but we have con­fi­dence in the courts to do that. My son de­served no such cru­elty.”


GRIEV­ING Se­go­motsi Gare­sape is still strug­gling to come to terms with the hor­rific mur­der of her son Kutl­wano (in­set)

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