When did things go hor­ri­bly wrong?

Pretoria News Weekend - - OPINION - Ntando Makhubu

THIS week has been in my life, a very newsy week, and that is some­thing any news per­son, es­pe­cially a news ed­i­tor who thrives on the in­flux of news for her daily sus­te­nance, a great thing.

Hu­man in­ter­est stories are my thing, and the more they come in the bet­ter I feel. I mean, they speak to the heart, to the hu­man be­ing, and to the core of who we are, be­cause we are hu­man be­ings, af­ter all.

They talk to the go­ings on in so­ci­ety, what hap­pens when politi­cians go back home and leave the lime­light of the board­room?

What lies be­neath the façade celebri­ties hide un­der when they ap­pear in public to cre­ate the im­pres­sion life is a bed of roses and that noth­ing touches the in­te­rior of their spon­sored out­fits, pro­fes­sion­ally done hair­dos, well cut suits and soft skin? Be­cause un­der all of that they are hu­man.

There is a large seg­ment of so­ci­ety that lives with­out that sheen that cov­ers re­al­ity, whose re­al­ity is laid bare for all to see, all the time.

And th­ese are, for me, the peo­ple who mat­ter. This week we had a story in the High Court, of a young girl, a 14-year-old from the leafy ‘burbs of Cen­tu­rion, who fell prey to re­al­ity. Re­al­ity be­ing re­spond­ing to a Face­book ad on the once pop­u­lar Blesser Fin­der phe­nom­e­non.

The girl, who was barely a teenager when she fell prey to this ugly thing, one day boarded a taxi from home and de­scended into the shack town of Braz­zav­ille – a far cry from her cos­mopoli­tan com­mu­nity, and, said one of the ac­cused this week, in­sisted she wanted to be blessed.

She went into a shack, one of many tin rooms around which was noth­ing but dusty roads and pit la­trines, wherein she, the ac­cused claims, was given a meal laced with poi­son.

That was meant to kill her, but she did not die, so the three men with whom she was in­side that dark and dingy room, pro­ceeded to tie a shoelace around her neck and stran­gle her to death. And in their ini­tial court case, they ad­mit­ted this was so they could steal her phone, which they would sell.

They then tied her arms and legs, cov­ered her in sheets and put her into a bag, waited un­til night to carry her the short dis­tance to a pit la­trine around which the traf­fic of peo­ple was con­stant, and then dumped her.

The girl’s fran­tic par­ents spent a month search­ing for her, and when one of her friends even­tu­ally came for­ward to tell the po­lice her friend had re­sponded to a blesser ad, the po­lice were able to link her to the body found in the la­trine.

The body, foren­sic pathol­o­gists said, was so badly de­com­posed it was hard to tell if it was that of a boy or girl. It took DNA tests to de­ter­mine it was the miss­ing child, and I imag­ine they re­acted in shock.

But herein lies the big­gest ques­tion – what drove her to re­spond to the ad? Why did she take a taxi when other older women were driven in lux­u­ri­ous ve­hi­cles to the bless­ing sta­tion?

Why did she, at the point of get­ting off the taxi, pro­ceed to the point where she re­alised it was not right?

At what point did she re­alise things had gone hor­ri­bly wrong?

I am haunted by this, and ev­ery day I talk to my own al­most teenage daugh­ter about the dan­gers that lurk be­yond the pro­tec­tive cover I pro­vide.

I beg her to al­ways let me in on her ac­tions, her wants, her needs and de­sires, and trust that what I can­not or will not give, is for her – or my, own good.

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