healing wounds cut open again

VICIOUS MEN: Sfiso Mhlanga, Julius Gxowa and Mbuti Mabe at the Johannesburg high court. 01/04/2009. © Sowetan. Pic. Vathiswa Ruselo.
VICIOUS MEN: Sfiso Mhlanga, Julius Gxowa and Mbuti Mabe at the Johannesburg high court. 01/04/2009. © Sowetan. Pic. Vathiswa Ruselo.

Redi Direko

Redi Direko

Controversial English historian James Anthony Frou was right way back in the 18th century when he said: "Wild animals never kill for sport. Man is the only one to whom the torture and death of his fellow creatures is amusing in itself."

Looking at the smiling face of one of the callous killers of Lucky Dube, I sadly concluded that the above quote is true. Newspapers captured so vividly that gleeful smile. He smiled after police overpowered him during the botched escape bid. It is enough to make your stomach churn.

These three monsters had somehow worked out that they could casually walk out of a well-fortified police van and escape the consequences of their evil actions.

While trying to escape, they attacked and seriously injured a policeman. Of all the gall! Thank goodness the police captured them. But in the scuffle that ensued, the prisoners sustained some injuries. To add insult to injury, these moegoes were treated at a state hospital at taxpayers' expense!

Like many South Africans, I was shaken to the core by the death of the beloved reggae icon. This outrage was expressed on talk shows, newspapers, taxis and other platforms. But with time, the human spirit comes to terms with tragedy and lets time heal the wounds. I was healing very nicely until the murderers attempted to escape. By staging this audacious move they literally gave Dube, his family, fans and institutions of our democracy, the middle-finger salute.

After months of coming face to face with Dube's loved ones, hearing his children's heart-wrenching testimony, seeing them weep as they painted in excruciating detail the moments leading up to this most profound loss, these monsters were not moved. As details emerged of how Dube was murdered, I convinced myself that these morons were reflecting on what they had done. Even though it can't be reversed, surely they could see the raw pain they inflicted on Dube's loved ones.

I wanted so badly to believe that somewhere behind their stony faces, the act of bravado, the emotionless eyes, lie beating hearts capable of loving, aching and breaking.

I'm not so naïve as to hope that criminals would suddenly break down and apologise. I did not expect them to welcome and embrace the prospect of punishment. But I was hoping that at some point in this trial, something inside them would stir and the seed of rehabilitation would be planted.

I believed that in their solitude and private corners they were counting the cost of their actions and that this precious life that they silenced would awaken something human in them.

Clearly not. Their attempt to escape was an act of defiance and heartlessness.

The trial was not meant to bring Dube back and it is not unique in that families lose loved ones all the time. It is also true that convicted criminals have on many other occasions tried to make a dash for freedom. But to pretend that Dube was just another man is to be dishonest. He was an icon. Hence news of his death reverberated across the world. That does not seem to faze his killers.

The state had called for life sentences and got its wish. Perhaps we should celebrate that our streets will be safer. This is a victory. But somehow it is hollow. The reality is that we as a society are up against a formidable foe.

The root causes of crime and other acts of brutality are far more complex. What kind of society gives rise to vicious men such as these? This newspaper reported that one of the criminal's girlfriends knew about his life of crime, but was attracted to his scar.

Again, what kind of society stoops so low as to allow young minds to have such perverted priorities?

Maybe it is none of our business because we are not guilty of crime and are not raising our children to be criminals. Unfortunately, these protective cocoons that we weave around ourselves are so fragile. When these angry young men and women descend, we are all losers.