Friday, 22 October 2021

Who needs enemies? Nomia's conviction

Former police officer Rosemary Nomia Ndlovu has been convicted of the six murders of her sister, nephew, nieces, cousin and boyfriend.

She took out life  insurance policies on them, then organised hits and benefitted about R1.4 million in payouts. 

Ndlovu was arrested while attempting to order another hit on her sister and the sister's 5 kids. She's also been found guilty of the attempted murder of her mom.

The hitman sent to take out the mom and a 5-month-old baby actually arrived at the mom's house,  but developed cold feet or grew a conscience upon seeing how old she was. He asked for water to drink and left. Rosemary wanted her own mother dead! How twisted does it get? 

One's head spins trying to keep track of the people she killed or wanted dead.  She has no contrition whatsoever.

That's her posing for cameras in court, with her ridiculous eyebrows and hairstyles that she changed on every appearance like panties, flashing signs and pouting throughout her trial. What a nutcase! Her sentencing is on the 5th of November, then off to jail she goes. But good Lord, who needs enemies with a relative like Nomia! She's the face of evil on wheels.

Life's little lessons

File Photo 

Trust life to slap you in the face and make you think of the things that really matter. This past week I visited a friend in Lyndhurst, and on my way back my navigator indicated that there would be an about 45-minute delay on the N1 highway due to a crash. I was running late home and, needless to say, very frustrated with the congestion. I just wished people would be more careful on the roads to avoid impacting the lives of others.

As I sat there grinding my teeth, a part of me even regretted visiting the friend, seeing how inconvenienced I was now.

As a creature of habit I'm always home at a specific time, and on the day that I decided to go against my routine, this happens! 

Everyone who has ever sat in traffic most likely relates. It's the most tedious way to spend one's time. We have lives and things to do, and can't just be sitting on a highway in the sweltering heat, not progressing. 

People have drawn their guns and shot others in rage after sitting in traffic for too long. During my protracted sit on the N1 that day - while not condoning violence - I somehow understood the driving force of road rage. 

At a snail's pace I eventually got to the cause of the delay. There had been a horrific crash, and two bodies were still at the scene covered with the silver foil we all know too well. 

Suddenly my anger over the delay wholly dissipated. I was instead flooded by a mixture of emotions. I felt sad for the deceased. They were obviously also headed somewhere, as we all were, on that highway when their lives were suddenly cut short. Somebody somewhere, probably their children, parents, or spouses, was waiting for them at home but would get bad news instead. Their families would never see them walk through the door, nor hear their voices ever again. 

File Photo
Such morbid and depressing reflections, but also other people's reality. I felt bad for being cross that I was delayed, yet I was still alive and still had time to do the things I wanted to do. At the same time, I also felt there was there wasn't much time for nonsense, and no time like the present to do everything our hearts desire because you just never know… 

When I eventually got home, almost an hour later than I would have if the crash had not happened, it was with a sense of gratitude that I hugged my children. I was here and still able to do that. 

The people I saw lying on the road and their children would never be able to experience this. I just felt all these emotions but never really vocalised them for fear of looking like a depressed and depressing weirdo, with a penchant to over-dramatise things. But here I am. I just needed to say it. 

We really shouldn't sweat the small stuff, like traffic delays. There are worse things happening around us, even on the roads we are on, like traffic accidents. We could be late, but should definitely be grateful we are not 'the late'. 

Sunday, 19 September 2021

Who needs enemies?

 South Africa was left dumbstruck this past week as details emerged about how a former police sergeant allegedly killed her relatives and a boyfriend over a period of about six years for insurance money. 

Nomia Rosemary Ndlovu allegedly
insured some relatives and then ordered hits on them to collect insurance money. Ndlovu’s two nephews, a niece, a cousin, her boyfriend and cousin died following violent attacks in the alleged scam. The former police officer was arrested after an undercover detective recorded  her giving directions to her sister’s house to a hitman, and explaining how the sister and her five children were to be killed.  

As the sordid  details came to light, the matter stirred huge debate on social media and many were left wondering, who needs enemies? Who indeed? Ndlovu’s case stands out because she killed a number of her relatives, but  hers is certainly not an isolated incident in South Africa. A number of people have been killed under similar circumstances. A case in point is that of black-widow Mulalo Sivhidzo, currently serving a life term for the murder of her husband of six months, Avhatakali Netshisaulu for inheritance. She hired hitmen, who included her husband’s friend, and he was burned alive in the boot of his car in December 2006. 

A woman from the Eastern Cape Nomqondiso Thembu  also received a life sentence after successfully organising a hit on her husband, Arthur Thembu, for insurance claims. However, what makes alleged serial killer Ndlovu stand out, apart from the shockingly high body count, is her calculating nature that saw her carefully plan the insurance contracts - even giving fake details to get approval. To then orchestrate the murders, while hiding in plain sight  dressed in blue and carrying a badge, just takes the wind out of one. 

In the wake of this disturbing case, insurance companies have come under sharp criticism for not putting sufficient measures in place to avoid manipulation of the system. Surely, it can’t be ethical to have your life insured without your consent or knowledge. We could easily be moving targets as we go about our lives, with someone following our movements closely. We could be someone’s meal ticket. In the event that the insurer gets broke and desperate, what’s to stop them from ‘helping things along’ and cash in on their investment?

Insurance companies need more regulation, as they have become a huge scam, aiding people’s demise. People have come forward declaring how they are pestered by insurers that “You can add two more people for just R50 extra”. It’s all about dollars and cents for them, no thorough checks on applications and before funds are disbursed after a claim. They smile all the way to the bank, while we watch our spouses and siblings across the table wondering if we are their loot tickets.  


Thursday, 17 June 2021

Killing off the tooth fairy

At what stage do you burst your children’s bubble by telling them Santa and tooth fairies don’t exist? 

I’m tired of running around in efforts to support these little beliefs. Yesterday I was almost late for work as I had to stop by the service station to get money from an ATM, all because one of  Rudairo’s teeth had fallen out and she was very excited about getting money from the tooth fairy. 

She had even paid back the R7 she owed me from months ago, in anticipation of the money she would find under her pillow the next day. One of her friends had told her she got a staggering R200 from her tooth fairy, and Rudairo was distressed to think that her own fairy was a miser who only gave R50. She came up with a plan to ensure this time around the tooth fairy wouldn’t tighten her fist so much – by putting some healthy snacks under the pillow next to the tooth. 

The tooth fairy’s snacks

When I went to perform my fairy duties at midnight, I found 3 grapes and a piece of lettuce, all discoloured from a full day under the pillow, my poor baby. That tugged at my heartstrings and I ended up coughing up a little more than I’d budgeted. Now she thinks the healthy treats did the trick, and is planning to add more when her next tooth falls out so she can get even more. Meanwhile, she has 2 wiggly teeth. I’m quaking in my boots. 

It was the same story last Christmas. She wrote on Santa’s list that she wanted an elf. I’d no idea where to find one. Eventually I saw a few at the Crazy Store and decided I’d do the shopping on Christmas Eve so that she wouldn’t see it when she went through my stuff as she always does. When I went back, the elves were all gone. I almost wept.

I ended up walking the length and breadth of nearby malls until I found an elf. I was so thankful and relieved I only fell short of kissing the shop attendant’s feet. 

Christmas morning ….  She was happy Santa had delivered, and I was happy too. 

The naughty elf that prances about the house

Then she told me that elves are naughty and are known to shift positions on the shelf when everyone goes to bed. To humour her, I’ve been busy moving the elf around so that she can be thrilled in the morning. We’re in a pandemic and there’s not much fun to be had anywhere else, remember. 

Now with more loose teeth in the pipeline (which she’s now wiggling with renewed vigour), plans to bribe the tooth fairy into being more generous, and changing the elf’s poses every night, I feel motherhood has become an extreme sport for me. 

Never mind the so-called ‘devastating loss of innocence’.  I want the truth to set me free. 

Published in the 

Sunday, 1 November 2020

Quest to beat the odds

 My daughter turns 7 later this month and has been creating more hype and campaigning for her birthday more aggressively than Donald Trump has been doing for the US elections. Her wish list keeps growing by the day, and at every turn she reminds me of the many times I’ve had to work odd or long hours, leaving her in tears but assuring her that I work hard so that I can buy her everything she wants. Well, now there’s a growing list of everything she wants – and she wants everything. A tutu dress with wings and rainbow colours, accompanied by an Alice band with a horn that looks exactly like her toy unicorn, Rainbow (which I was arm-twisted into buying), a trip to Sun City, a spa day for the two of us, a party where a number of friends will be invited, a “ginormous” Barbie cake in strawberry flavour…and…and…and. This girl will leave me impoverished!

I love birthdays, and my daughter could be a little OTT, but the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Everyone close to me knows that my birthday cannot just pass like the wind because it is a big deal. I fall short of writing down a list of people who neglect to wish me a happy birthday on Facebook so that I can commit their names to memory and remember to also ignore their birthdays, or better still, not ever hit the like button on any of their posts. That’s a joke. I make a big deal of loved ones’ birthday too, and try to ensure they feel special on their own birthdays. For me, birthdays signify a new beginning. As a believer, it means God has kept me hanging around for one more year, and is giving me another chance to enjoy life, right my wrongs and find my purpose in life.

There's, however, one birthday that leaves me quaking in my boots, and it’s my son’s. Victor has autism and will be turning 15 in January. 

My sense of panic is escalating as the years go by. On the eve of his birthday I usually stay up late and say a prayer for him with a lump in my throat and a tear or two in my eyes, wondering what his purpose in life will ever be in a world where a high school pass and a tertiary qualification determine your success. 

Every new birthday is a reminder that I need to do something to secure his future and ensure he is a contributing member of society, but I don’t know where to start given the weaknesses in our education system. At 15, we are at a stage where there needs to be a plan in place for his transition into adulthood, more so because he is not in mainstream school where there are specific stages for everything. 

For neurotypical peers there are no worries because they still have to sit for matric, and decisions will be made thereafter. But with him and others in the same shoes, arrangements have to be made now. If he is to learn a trade, it should be done now, so that there’s enough time to seek out the skill and nurture it for a number of years, considering his cognitive abilities are underdeveloped. 

Government makes the right noises about the availability of schools for autism, but on the ground there really isn’t much happening. Many parents are at the end of their tethers not knowing what to do with their autistic children. Private school fees, where skills are reportedly taught, are up the roof and out of the reach of many, while public school standards are down at the bottom of the barrel.      

Victor will turn 15 soon and I'm yet to find what I consider a proper school for him. How ridiculously sad is that? In 2017 the Department of Basic Education reported that almost 10,000 children with special needs were still waiting to be placed in school. The figures can’t have changed much over the past three years; I’m not too hopeful on that front. 

My focus is now on ensuring that Victor learns a life skill, at least, in a world where a high school pass and a tertiary qualification determine your success.  I don’t know where to start, but I’m not static! One night when I had worked myself up into a near-panic attack, I reached out to my small network of autism parents about what we should do as a collective to secure our children’s future. I should have kept my worry to myself. Invariably the responses, across races, were of resignation, “Oh Charlotte, let’s just be glad for the small victories and not be too hard on ourselves, there’s really nothing to be done. The only thing we can actually do is pray that we outlive our children so that we can keep looking after them. Without us they’ll be on the streets picking food from rubbish dumps. Let’s just pray without ceasing, let’s be on our knees all the time.” Suddenly I wished we’d had a face-to-face meeting. Not for us to cuddle in our combined despair, but for me to give them noogies for giving up. I don’t want to be on my knees all the time, praying without ceasing. I want to be up on my feet hitting the ground towards a goal, or at least pacing up and down trying to come up with solutions. Even the good book says there is a time for everything, so there should be a time to pray, and a time to trust God to have your back as you act.

Our children risk falling through the cracks if there’s no intervention. The pain of seeing Victor’s age mates move from one stage to the next is one of its own kind. People in the autism community say we should never compare our children with ‘normal’ kids because we’ll only break our hearts. “Let’s focus on our kids’ strengths and small victories instead,” they say. But the comparison is inevitable. Without the right support, the strengths will not be of much use. I don’t want my son to just be known as that autistic boy or man who’s a whizz at reading, typing, spelling and trivia, but amounted to nothing because his mother gave up on him. For me, the comparison is a jab on the side that I need to do more for my son and other children. That jab sent me to nominate myself for election in the Autism South Africa’s National Executive Council in a bid to be close to the think tank, where challenges are presented but have to be accompanied by solutions, not pity parties. My two-year term begins this month, yay! Some in my circle are in awe of my perceived strength and energy to turn the tide. I can’t turn it, but I hope to be comfortable manoeuvring in it. I call it perceived strength because I’m not always strong. Sometimes I am that mom who tells herself she can trample snakes and scorpions, break down all barriers in her path to ensure her son emerges the victor, as he’s aptly named. Then there are those moments when I just want to buy a bucket of ice cream and box of tissues and ugly-cry in resignation, because the chances of my child and others like him attaining any degree of independence will remain a pie in the sky because of the odds that are stacked against us.

By joining Autism South Africa, I do strongly feel I’m on the right path. I hope to bring positive change to the organisation and raise awareness in the community and government structures. African governments need to know that not providing the right support for people with special needs is a liability on their part. Investing in vocational training, on the other hand, is not flushing money down the toilet, but a good investment in better futures for everyone concerned. People with autism and other cognitive disabilities will forever be tied to their mother’s apron strings and be a burden on families and state coffers for all their lives, having to be catered for through social grants. Sometimes they even impede their parents from working because of challenges they present. Isn’t it better to teach them to fish and feed them for life than give them a barely fulfilling fish once in a while? They might have challenges, but not all of them are insurmountable. They, like everyone else, need self-actualisation. One day Victor said to me, “Mom, will you visit me at my apartment and see my Audi?” In his innocence, he actually sees himself leaving the nest and having his own life away from me, but how do we get him there? Whether I’d actually allow him to leave my side is a story for another day, but I need to fight with every fibre in my body to ensure he has equal access to resources like any other human being. It’s all up to me. There’s no knight in shining armour coming our way.

Friday, 28 August 2020

When the Protector Becomes the Predator

 One of the most topical issues in the news this past week was the alleged police shooting incident that killed a 16-year-old boy with Down Syndrome in Eldorado Park, Johannesburg. According to Nathaniel Julius’ family, the police had tried to ask him questions, which he failed to respond to owing to his disability. As with many stories of this nature, many versions will come out of the woodwork, making it harder to tell fact from fiction. What is constant, however, is that an unarmed boy with a disability was gunned down.

The late Nathaniel Julius

As a mother to a teenager with autism, the incident hit close to home and completely ruined my day. So many questions buzzed in my head, like for instance, how did the cops not see obvious signs of Down Syndrome on the child, who gave the policeman who pulled the trigger the authority to be judge, jury and executioner? Even if Nathaniel had the capacity to speak for himself, the very first Miranda Right is the right to remain silent. No-one ought to be executed for failing to answer questions. The possibility of such a horrible incident happening to my son, Victor, makes me quake in my boots. If a young man with visible signs of a developmental condition can wantonly be gunned down like that, heaven help those that look ‘normal’.

My greatest fear comes from the knowledge that Victor would be a perfect candidate for the kind of atrocity witnessed in Eldorado Park. Although he can speak, he is not always articulate, especially in situations where he feels apprehensive. If confronted by the police, he is not likely to co-operate. He would probably have an epic meltdown, or probably just walk away, which in turn would provoke the officers, who might view this as an act of defiance. Autism does not have tell-tale signs, unlike Down Syndrome. I view it as an advantage because people stare at and taunt those that look different, which can make public life very uncomfortable for people with visible disabilities. However, in light of potential police brutality, the lack of discernible signs can actually work against him. People expect him to function in a certain way, and are always shocked when he doesn’t. Because he is very tall and looks mature, I’ve had vendors or sales people enthusiastically try to sell their products to him, whereupon he just gives them a blank stare or will quickly cling to my arm so that I can intervene. The thought of him being surrounded by gun-toting aggressive policemen makes my blood run cold. I invest a great deal of time in resources to help him become an independent and contributing member of society one day. But with the constant threat to his life caused by a lack of awareness on intellectual disabilities or sheer cruelty, he’s condemned to always being tied to my apron strings for his own safety. That is not fair.

I have read many news stories and accounts of people with intellectual disabilities being harassed, unjustifiably arrested, or killed by the police, particularly in the United States.  To have this in our own backyard, where the spirit of ubuntu is hyped, is both petrifying and disconcerting. They say it takes a village to raise a child. It is every society’s duty to look out for its vulnerable. Well, this village of gunslingers failed Nathaniel and the whole community of people living with disabilities. It instills great fear to know that those that are meant to protect and serve communities have turned into a lynch mob. In discussions on social media, some people have posited that Nathaniel’s disability should not be the focal point; society should just be outraged about the killing of an innocent boy. In my opinion, the disability is very much a part of the narrative. It is well documented that people with developmental disabilities are disproportionately susceptible to acts of violence. This has been attributed partly to their incapacity to protect themselves and obtain assistance within the justice system.

The killing of Nathaniel has shown that parents whose children have special needs and relevant organisations have their work cut out for them. A lot of advocacy is needed to ensure that the vulnerability of people with disabilities is eradicated, more so within the justice system. To some, people with disabilities might appear as if they should be banished to the periphery of life, but where they come from, they are loved. They have names, because they are real. They have their own seat at the dinner table. There is now an empty chair at Nathaniel’s house and his family is distraught.

This inexcusable incident has shown gaps in the policing system. How much training do law enforcement officers receive on handling people with disabilities? Or is that expecting a lot from people who appear to not even be conversant with the rules of engagement? I doubt that any amount of training can restrain a trigger happy and blood thirsty policeman.

Saturday, 11 July 2020

Close shave

I BELIEVE my life was in danger recently.  Virtual races and challenges have taken the globe by storm due to the coronavirus pandemic, and I’m participating in a 300km challenge, initiated by my sister in Denmark. I try to walk approximately 5km daily. I decided to walk around 4pm. A few metres before I got home, I noticed a man in front of me, covering himself from the head with a dirty blanket. He appeared to be a vagrant. At some point, he stopped to adjust his blanket, and I felt as if he had looked at me as he did so. He dragged his blanket further down, such that it covered his upper face, then he wrapped his purple scarf around his face. Alarm bells started ringing in my head. I was asking myself if he was trying to hide his face in preparation to strike.  Then I thought, maybe I need to stop watching On the Case with Paula Zahn and all the Investigation Discovery programmes making me see danger everywhere, even when people are just trying to protect themselves from the cold weather. It doesn’t help that I work in the media, where the primary focus on the bad and the ugly is enough to get one unhinged.  I also reminded myself that profiling of any kind was unfair. Not everyone who appears down on their luck should be viewed as a thug and potential threat.
The man appeared to have somewhat slowed down after noticing me. I decided to pick up pace, he did too, but not enough to overtake me. I saw another man walking behind us, and felt a surge of relief that my tail would surely not pounce on me with another person in the vicinity. But that man appeared to be in a hurry and soon outpaced us. The man I believe was following me switched to the same side I was walking, and seemed determined not to overtake me. I felt, or imagined, his eyes boring into my back, and was relieved when I got to our complex. Sadly, load-shedding was underway and the electrical gate to our complex wouldn’t open. I was, however, sure the man would just walk on by, seeing I was now home. As I stood by the gate, something made me turn back, and there he was, all covered up by his blanket and purple scarf, with only the eyes showing. He was standing about five metres away from me, gazing at me. Then calmly, from behind his blanket, he tilted his head to sweep his eyes up and and down the road, probably checking if there was any person nearby. I checked too, and there was absolutely no one within sight. It was eerily quiet. Then out of nowhere, a car pulled into the driveway and stopped by the gate, intending to also get into the complex. As soon as the man saw I wasn’t alone anymore, he whispered, "I'll see you, neh?" and walked away.
 Days after the incident, I saw the man begging at an intersection
I was pretty shaken up when someone inside the complex opened the gate for the black car. I got in and just stood there gazing at it until it parked outside a house. I wondered whether to go after the occupants and say thank you for showing up when you did, and kiss their feet. Their arrival probably saved me from something catastrophic. Gender-based violence is at an all-time high in South Africa, and I could easily have become a statistic. Maybe not, but I believe we should always trust our instincts. When someone’s presence destabilises your spirit, don’t second-guess yourself.  We might want to be good sports who see the best in everyone, but there is no space for such toxic positivity in the world we live in. You need to constantly look over your shoulder because there is almost danger lurking in the shadows, especially for women. Not everyone we encounter has our best interests at heart. It is a depressing way to live.
 When I got inside the house, I was so relieved to see my children, and be back to safety. My daughter asked, “How was your walk, mummy?” I told her my walk was bad because I met a bad man along the way. In her innocence, she asked if I had taken a picture. When I said no, she ran and took a sheet of black paper and a felt pen, and asked me to draw him.
I told two of my friends about the encounter, and they all encouraged me to find a walking buddy. Unfortunately, I don’t have one. At the beginning of my walk, two ladies overtook me and they were chatting away. I remember feeling a wave of sadness for a brief moment, wishing I had someone to occasionally walk with. I don’t really mind my own company, and walking alone gives me the rare opportunity to reflect on my life and line my thoughts. Still, it would be great to have someone to call on when I need some company during my walk.
Today I woke up feeling ballsy and determined to walk again. It was cold and   windy, so I wore my warm clothes and got out of the gate, I looked up and down the road, and noticed there weren’t any walkers or pedestrians in sight. Everyone seemed to have developed cold feet due to the wintry weather. Seeing the road so quiet creeped me out as I remembered the unwelcome encounter from yesterday. With my tail neatly tucked between my legs, I went back into the house. He won.