THE BIG READ: An ugly side to Ugie
Dear Jacky, I cannot think of a worse way in which to start a Monday morning. Your Facebook posting saddened me more than anything I have ever experienced. I am so very sorry.
You wrote: "Good morning, Mr Jansen. WE NEED TO TALK. Our small northeastern Cape community is in deep shock after our headmaster and his wife were brutally attacked in the early hours of Sunday morning.
"Linie Gouws died from her injuries and Chris Gouws, principal of Ugie High School, survived the attack. School starts in about an hour. The students are writing exams.
"It is going to be such a hard day on everyone, the students who see Chris as a father figure, the teachers, the parents, the community on 'both sides of the Wildebeest River'. The Gouwses have been an integral part of the community for more than 25 years... Do you possibly have any advice for a place which is going through such trauma? Regards, Jacky Lamer (English teacher, Ugie High School)."
Shortly after reading your posting, a friend of the family posted on Facebook her own angry record of events.
She wrote (edited): "So, a couple I know was attacked in their rural home this weekend. Managed to make a call to the local police station in between all the stabbing and torture and stuff ... no answer. Later, with blood all over and punctured by multiple stab wounds, they manage to drive to the police station and find the cops warming themselves around a cosy little fire and a no-cars-no-can-do response.
"I hate general middle-class whining about crime and really take people to task for it, but if we can't trust the police any more to do the most basic part of their job, then we have to accept that the thin blue line is non-existent [by the way, the woman then died in the car]."
I must confess, Jacky, that I probably can say very little, given the terrible pain and anguish you, the pupils and other teachers must be experiencing. But let me try.
First, you have the right to be angry - at the murderers, at the police, at the system, at all of us who failed to protect these precious souls.
You are right to question why it is that two passionate South Africans, who gave their lives to the education of our people, could be the victims of such brutal violence.
And you are right to be concerned about the effects of this senseless eradication of human lives on the impressionable minds of the children in your school and on the motivation of the teachers who, I am sure, already fight incredible odds to give the young people of this rural town a decent chance in life.
But I also need to tell you this: you are not alone.
After I posted your story, hundreds of South Africans from all walks of life contacted me to wish you well, to pray for you, and to stand with you in this hour of need.
You will read many of these messages on my Facebook site.
Please tell the teachers, tell the pupils and tell the community that there are millions of South Africans joining hands with the school and the people of Ugie at this time. You are not alone.
I ask you to keep perspective. In this country of more than 40 million people, there are many more good people than there are bad people.
Above the familiar noise and the wanton violence, hold on to this simple truth. Hard as this might sound, we dare not give up. Too many have died in the struggle for justice and the pursuit of peace in South Africa.
We must, especially at this time, stand firm and stand together, determined that a few wicked people not destroy the promise of our democracy.
We will join you shortly with counselling and support services and whatever else you might need.
In the meantime, I thought that this note (edited) from one of our students, after reading my Facebook posting, will encourage you and the community at this time: "Mr Gouws was my school principal for a good 10 years.
"His late wife was our adoptive mother. My heart is weary. I can only imagine the sombre atmosphere at the school. Both were active community leaders.
"It is a sad day for the Ugie community. Thanks to him I have now just completed my degree at the University of the Free State. (Chuma Xundu)."