In every aspect of life, I want my children to know that #LoveWins.
This weekend, I arrived back in Johannesburg for two book launches, one in Benoni on Saturday, and one in Lenasia on Sunday. As has become customary in my family, my sister and brother-in-law along with my niece and nephew are my usual team for such events in their part of the world. Books in the back, snacks in front, and we’re ready to go. Everything is a family affair.
The unfortunate road rage incident that followed the launch had me doing two things: capturing number plate and incident pics, and sending them to social media as a measure of finding a way to figure this whole thing out. I didn’t detail who was in the car, just my rage and fear are apparent. My first thought: my children! Within minutes, the post went viral, beyond anything I have encountered.
In the midst of what was a traumatic experience, people we know and those we didn’t know, reached out in every way, offering moral support and care, some legal advice as well. The power of communal networks aside from online social media became clear to me. I even received a call from my hometown Polokwane, from the head of the Nirvana Community Policing Forum. He was compassionate and professional, ensuring we were safe and providing clarity and advice as well as offering access to extended support through his networks in the city we were in. I am sincerely grateful to everyone. Overwhelmed, I refused to engage comments to media colleagues simply offering a platform for conversation. The negative comments attempting to malign my stance didn’t even need my defence. The conversation took on a life of its own as people owned the debate. It was no longer about who or what. We are a society prone to dangers and crime, and very tired of it. We know we have laws available to us, at the same time, we know that every situation merits its own considerations. Some suggested my brother-in-law press charges. Some suggested they would choose vindictive methods. Communal anger in the face of ongoing crime does that, showing us how much we need to heal. I don’t advocate violence to deal with violence. We wanted another way, a better way.
And then something happened. An old friend from the legal profession who had been watching the posts wrote a public message to me about the options: press charges or find a way to mediate a solution, assuming it was possible with the other party. On investigation, he found that he knew someone who knew someone, and enquired about what the feel was on all sides. He immediately volunteered as a mediator to allow for a meeting. I wasn’t in town, but there was no reason to defer it, as even the other party was eager to meet.
A close personal friend who had been checking on us through the process, had also alluded that community policing forums had sat down to look at what was possible, and that the gentleman in the other car was remorseful and intent on meeting with my brother-in-law. We wanted to do this especially for the children. My sister asked each of the kids how they felt about it. She asked their permission. One gave it readily, the other one had one or two questions before being okay with it.
And so they met on Tuesday night with our friend as mediator. I think of it as a peace circle, a conversation that will catapult the healing, especially because the gentleman made a direct apology to the children, which must have taken the greatest courage, but also speaks to the authenticity of the apology. It is a big deal to acknowledge and say sorry. And all in all, my family is convinced that this was a pleasant, rare solution to a traumatic experience. I am told, he arrived with a small peace offering for the children. That made me smile. It wasn’t necessary but it was a gesture of good intent. My mind is at rest.
I’m told that there was no suggestion to condone the act. There was nothing said to assume there was provocation, just apology and remorse. Ultimately, both parties have accepted their responsibility and have settled things by apologising to each other. Everyone involved now considers the matter closed.
I believe that we were blessed to find a better way for this particular situation. As South Africans, we live in a violent society. So many people wrote to me saying road rage is common in the area. It made my heart sore. We cannot condone violence, but to heal, we must continue to have these conversations, to rise above it, and to acknowledge what it takes to forgive, to feel genuinely remorseful, to say sorry and to build those bridges we so urgently need on the road ahead. I want to thank my brother-in-law for taking his time to digest the case, to feel his way through this no matter what his concerns before pressing charges. I also want to thank the gentleman in the other vehicle, for revealing his compassion and remorse towards my children. I think there have been lessons learnt by all of us. The big lesson, aside following the justice system when ones rights have been violated is that social justice must always be motivated by compassion.
There must always be a better way.
I want the children to always know, that when you do something wrong, apologise. I want them to know that you must speak up, you must stand up for yourself. And more than anything, I want my kids to remember, that #LoveWins.
May the Most Merciful One inspire in us all, mercy and compassion. Ameen.
Shafinaaz Hassim, Polokwane, SA.