Ina Bonnette: The road to healing starts now

2013-07-21 14:00

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Ina Bonnette closes an unspeakable chapter of her life after the ordeal caused by the ‘Modimolle Monster’, writes Hanlie Retief

'‘I wish we still had the death penalty. I would’ve pushed that button myself to see him swing.”

It was the afternoon before sentence was passed on Johan Kotzé, a.k.a. the “Modimolle Monster”, and his ex-wife, Ina Bonnette, wanted him dead.

“I am very close to the word ‘hate’. Very close,” she said.

But when Judge Bert Bam gave his judgment – three life sentences – “Life”, she said. “That’s better. Now he’ll have many years to think about what he did.”

She had been married to Kotzé for five months and separated for six before he mutilated her body with pliers and nails, and hired men to rape her while she heard her son Conrad’s last calls for help before he was shot dead – calls which she now hears every night in her nightmares.

The morning after the sentencing, we are in her parents’ retirement home in Modimolle. Against the wall is a large photo of Conrad.

Hanging in the wardrobe are his old blazers, with a string of colours.

Bonnette looks different from the newspaper photos. Softer, more relaxed. More delicate, younger. But her purple fringe is still up, her red nails glittering, a Vogue cigarette between her fingers. There’s relief in her eyes. Finally it’s all over.

“They call me the half-woman of Nylstroom. There’s so much gossip and spite here.

“When my attackers claimed they did not rape me, people in my town took me by the arm and said, ‘Oh, now the truth is coming out’. That’s why I specifically said to the media after the verdict, I stand by my statement and my testimony.”

Just to keep going was the hardest for her. “While Kotzé was attacking me, he said over and over that when he has finished with a woman, she commits suicide or ends up in an asylum. That’s where I decided: you’re not going to get away with it.”

She has many friends, but she’s not prepared for a man now, she says firmly. She shivers at the mere thought. “I simply can’t imagine that. Too much pain still has to be healed.”

Bonnette’s father brings her matriculant daughter Angelique from school. She greets us shyly. She is also suffering, her mother says later. “Mum,” she says, “just like you, I also have this cocoon around me now.”

People keep asking Bonnette how she can get over everything, because the worst possible things happened to her: three rapes, mutilation, the murder of her son. And all this not by a stranger, but by her husband.

Unbearable, she says. She lifts her hand so that the photographer can’t take a picture of her tears. There have been enough pictures of tears.

On her lap she holds her son’s cellphone. It’s always near to her, with his face on the screen.

“I have my son’s voice, everything, on his phone.

“Two hours before he died, he sent me an SMS saying he wanted to go to the gym. I replied with a few kisses.”

Bonnette works as a broker on commission and all those days in court took their financial toll.

“Yesterday, on the way to Pretoria, my petrol card was rejected ... Phew, I thought I would die of embarrassment!”

She was on the front pages day after day. Everybody recognises her, she’s public property. Sometimes she feels terrified, just wants to run away.

And the wild purple hair that everybody is talking about?

“That’s going to stay. This is Ina now, part of the Go Purple Project against rape.”

That purple hair, to be precise, is giving the finger to Kotzé. That’s exactly how he didn’t like her. It’s against all his manipulative instructions about how she had to look for him. For Kotzé she had to throw out her wardrobe, put on weight, cut her hair, sell her furniture because he didn’t like it.

But the warning lights didn’t flash for her until it was too late.

Later we drive to Bela-Bela and stand by Conrad’s grave. Mother and daughter stand arm in arm braving the cold wind.

“Boeta, rest now,” Bonnette says. “Justice has been done.”

It’s July 18 2013, the first day of her new life. This weekend she will just be herself.

“Now the road to healing will start.”

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