A happy child asked why, and I had no words

2015-03-08 15:00

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Wednesday. The Croc (photographer Khaya Ngwenya) andI are hanging out with Riyana Bujram. Riyana’s this fearless, in charge-of-the world three-year-old.

Riyana’s a natural born model in the way only little children are. She’s got the Croc wrapped around her little finger, ordering him around her grandmother Shirley’s house in Dundee.

Riyana gets tired of telling the Croc what to do. She turns her attention to me. Riyana wants to know what my voice recorder is for; whyI have a notebook next to me on the couch; what Uncle Khaya andI are doing and if we’re going to stay for lunch.

I mumble something unintelligible. My saliva tastes like acid and my throat is constricting. My eyes start filling up. I turn away to avoid making eye contact with this beautiful, innocent little human being. And to avoid having to lie to her.

How do you tell a three-year-old child you’re in her granny’s house to talk about her granddad, who was shot dead before she was born by people he called his comrades?

How do you tell her that her granddad was killed because he refused to stop investigating why houses meant to be given to poor people for free were being sold?

Or that the person who was charged for paying the men who shot him isn’t in jail?

Riyana jumps up on the couch. She’s relentless. My evasions aren’t working. Everything is “why”.

The Croc sees what’s going down. The Croc comes to my rescue and calls her to come join granny and her five-year-old sister, Ramana, in the room next door. Riyana forgets me and tears off to get back to telling Uncle Khaya what to do. I can taste the relief.

This is a toxic job, one of those that can leave a real foul taste in your mouth. Riyana’s granddad, former ANC councillor and unionist Grishen Bujram, was killed for blowing the whistle on an RDP housing scam in June 2007.

The person who was accused of masterminding his killing was then mayor and former ANC regional executive committee member Thandeka Nukani. The shooter was her boyfriend, Bongani Shangase. The driver of the getaway car was her nephew Siyabonga.

They’re both in jail. Not long after they went to jail, Nukani was arrested for trying to have Siyabonga killed for wanting to turn state witness against him. She’s now out on bail.

Last November, Nukani walked on the murder charge.

Like I say, a toxic job.

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