The shooting of 12-year-old Kgopotso Ramolefe, shot through the head with a high-velocity hunting round by his grandmother’s employer on Tuesday, is upsetting at just about every level, but for me the most awful thing about the story is that Elizabeth Ramolefe told the Star “I blame myself”. That speaks not just of the private tragedy of the situation, but of profound moral distortions created by apartheid, and complicated by violent crime.
The facts of the case seem pretty clear.
Someone had tried to break into the Sandton property owned by Warren Voster on Tuesday afternoon, setting nerves on edge in the household. At about 7.30 that evening, while Elizabeth Ramolefe was cooking supper in the main house, Kgopotso cried out anxiously for her from the Zozo hut they shared outside. She called Voster, who allegedly fetched his .308 hunting rifle from its safe and fired a single shot through the kitchen window, which hit the boy just above his eye.
There seems to be no basis to think Voster intended to kill the child — he was found at the scene by paramedics desperately attempting CPR — and this is no doubt an awful situation for him, but that Elizabeth Ramolefe should attempt to shoulder the guilt is far worse, and speaks to a much wider tragedy.
“Mothers and grandmothers always blame themselves,” one of my colleagues said, and she may be right, but I think there is more to it than that.
Is it possible that the wounds of apartheid are so deep that an older black woman sees herself somehow fundamentally at fault for a crime — and I think this is clearly a crime — committed by a white man, that guilt clings to blackness while white is right? That she fears so much for her job that she feels compelled to defend Voster? That her own fear of a robbery, heightened by the real threat earlier in the day, led her to interpret his cries as a warning of attack, and that she can only see Voster’s actions as a legitimate response?
For someone with so little power in this situation to feel compelled to take on responsibility seems to me a mark of all of these very deep pathologies.
The fact is that whatever his intentions, and however much he will regret it forever, Warren Voster responded to a confused and distant threat with terrible and illegitimate force. It was his fear, and his capacity for violence, that killed Kgopotso. Those pathologies too, may have been born of apartheid, of post-apartheid criminality, but he cannot absolve himself of them in the same way the Elizabeth Ramolefe must. On the facts before us now, neither should any court.
Source: Mail & Guardian Online
Web Address: http://mg.co.za/article/2009-07-02-take2-profound-moral-distortions
NIC DAWES | JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA – Jul 02 2009 17:25