Tuesday, 3 October 2006

Bullet entered just below my left ear and exited below my skull

Posted: October 03, 2006 00:30

JOHANNESBURG - In January of last year I was hijacked for my bicycle on Hans Strijdom Drive near Kya Sands. This was done by attempting to shoot me in the face at arms length by two men without a word being spoken. No request, no demand. They just pointed and fired. By some miracle the bullet entered just below my left ear and exited below my skull at the back of my neck without hitting anything, just damaging a lot of muscle and tissue.

The doctors treating me could not believe that such a thing was possible and all agreed that I should actually be dead. I even walked into the emergency room at the hospital after the shooting. I have been told that the chances of surviving a gunshot wound to the neck especially as such close range is one in a couple of million. However I was not the only person who was attacked in such a manner on that day. Two other cyclists were attacked that same morning, one of them ending in the same hospital room as me. Nick was shot twice and had a broken collar bone, his bike and Camelbak stolen, before a motorist came to assist him. After 8 months of frustrating phoning and visiting the police station, a detective eventually took my statement. The police still consider this to be an isolated incident despite the steady increase in the number of attacks.

To date nothing has happened with the case of attempted murder and the detective working on the case no longer is in service. From this incident, local cycling clubs organised a protest ride to the local police station with demands on the police force to take action and a couple hundred signatures of cyclists personally affected by crime whilst cycling or knowing of someone who has been. This protest ride seems to have had little affect and even the media coverage in newspapers and on television of Nick and I have done nothing to stop, let alone reduce, the number of cyclists being attacked. I have since then received numerous emails of cyclist being attacked, often brutally, for their bikes, Camelbaks and cell phones.

In July a middle aged woman was attacked in a national race near Barberton by two men and her bike stolen. She has thankfully been released from hospital. I met a cyclist a few weeks ago that was run over by a drunken motorist. The drunk then stopped, reversed to the cyclist and stole his bike, leaving him stranded. I haven’t stopped cycling because I am free and it is my right to do what I enjoy, and I am not a coward.

When the shooting happened my wife and I had only being married for eight months. She had to drive past where I was shot ever day to work. We moved to Pretoria in June, myself taking up a new job and my wife starting her own business. We live in what we considered a relatively safe area in comparison to the rest of South Africa. However crime has hit our area often with theft of cars, shootings, etc. Friday nights can get quite noisy with the all the gunshots going off. At the same time, a friend of mine expanded his fine art digital printing business and moved into a new office in a small shopping centre in Menlo Park. His business was doing really well, working with some of the top photographers in the country and a number of international photographers from Africa. He has built this business up over the last eight years from nothing and invested his life and money into it.

Much of his equipment is extremely expensive and specialized and would not be found just any where. In August of this year, he acquired backup software and hardware for his business. He was busy installing all the stuff and was working late. He had everything up and running and started the transfer of information onto the backup system and went home. He hadn’t got home when the security company phoned him and said the alarm had gone off. He returned to the shop to find a pick and a lump of rubble thrown through his shop front and his new equipment and computers either stolen or thrown around the shop.

The police took 5 days to come and take fingerprints and his statement. The short for this story is that the theft affected him so badly that he had two choices left: either he closes the business; he and two other staff members become unemployed or carry on some how. He decided to do the latter but has literally sold all he has in order to do so. What was a thriving growing small business has literally died because of the robbery and as such he has lost a number of clients.

Just two weeks ago, a very close friend of ours and his family where attacked in their home in Brooklyn. They were tired up, beaten with various implements, stabbed and locked in the bathroom. The attackers attempted to rape his sister and some how he got free and attacked them with a shower pole. In the attack he was shoot at a number of times and stabbed a number of times, one wound puncturing his lung. His father also some how managed to come free and came to his son’s aid and with this the three attackers left with some electronic equipment.

Thankfully he and his family are all out of hospital and are doing well. They are now tying to get their life into order again after the ordeal. This attack followed a week after a woman of two children who had just moved from Limpopo province because of safety concerns, was shot dead in a hijacking outside her house in Brooklyn.

The government and police feed us garbage about crime statistics in this country. My mother is a nursing sister. One has to spend a few minutes a week with her to hear of the victims of brutal attacks that come into the hospital for treatment. Anatomy is even cut off in these attacks for things worthless as cell phones.

My friend who has the fine art printing shop deals with some people that are high up and close to government officials. There comments are that the government does not know how to handle the crime or what to do about it and that they are not really putting any effort in because of this. Two of my dad’s drivers where attacked for the delivery vehicle. They were tied up, blind folded, beaten and driven to the Swaziland border, held under gunpoint in the veld for a number of hours until the vehicle had passed into Swaziland and then left bound up without any idea of where they were. Every week I meet people and hear stories of this nature.

To top this all off now, since the courts have dismissed Jacob Zuma’s corruption trial, we are now faced with the future president of this country being a criminal – in the new regime - who has so much power and support that he is able to rule over the courts in this country. What future do we have now? I have yet to meet anybody who is optimistic now for the future of this country and a large majority of these people have said that if Zuma does come into power they will be leaving the country for good.

At this point in time I agree with them. My wife and I are thinking of having a child next year. I could not possible bring another life into this world and this country knowing what is going on. What kind of a life would I be offering? Fear. Living in a prison. Murder. Injustice. Rampant crime. The list goes on. I am sorry but for nearly 12 years I have been trying my best to stay optimistic and positive about this country, but it is slowly being stuffed up and I see now future here for myself or my family. My spirit is being killed everyday here. No one is in this country is having a ‘better life’. No one. - Neal Dunstan

Source: Crime Expo South Africa

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