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The Heroes of Little Things

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on December 11, 2020 17:48

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Hollywood brainwashes us into thinking heroes have to save the earth, or at least the United States, to count. But I want to salute a hero I cannot name, for fear of reprisal, a hero who deserves applause, a hero who was there when it counted, and will be there.

Let me tell the story of a young girl from Zimbabwe who married a rather flashy, quick-talking guy. His high profile attracted the attention of Zimbabwean political organizers and, being from a minority ethnic group, he was pressured to join a political youth organization. Instead he skipped the country and talked himself into a job and a work permit in South Africa. She followed with their then small baby, despite not having a passport... 

Her husband, after several jobs, found work as gardener for two clients, and a few other odd jobs, driving, fetching and carrying, and making himself useful. They had twins, two little girls, and all was well despite growing persecution against foreigners. His passport was stolen, he had a new one issued, but having the work permit transferred takes two years and more. Then, came COVID and South Africa locked down. The husband went, one fine day in May, to buy supplies and, at the shop, someone was mugged and relieved at knife point of a cell phone and money. Security and police arrived and arrested the husband who did not run away because, in his words, he had not done anything wrong.

Then, began the nightmare. Police considered him an illegal immigrant since the work permit was not endorsed in his passport. The case was referred to a higher court. The wife found a lawyer who would take the case, and she raised money from his employers, had his cattle back in Zimbabwe sold, paid the lawyer, and gave him all relevant documents including copies of the work permit. 

She attended each court hearing. Sometimes the case was postponed because someone in court had tested positive, and sometimes  it was postponed because there was Covid in the prison. The lawyer had the case postponed because he thought the magistrate was prejudiced against him. Bail was not granted because the documents were endorsed "Illegal immigrant." She secured the services of an NGO who assists illegal immigrants but could not help because the accused had a legal work permit.

In November the case came up once again, and the lawyer announced that he is withdrawing because he had not been paid. Our hero from the public gallery rose and denounced the lawyer for milking the family and refusing to apply for bail. 

The magistrate, having warned her that she was in contempt of court, called her to state her case and tell the court what she intends to do. She subimitted copies of the work permits which the lawyer now claimed never to have seen, and asked the magistrate to help her. 

A state lawyer was appointed, and the legality of the work permit was established in short order. However, a bail application scheduled for December was postponed as the state was not ready. 

Here is a woman who stands by her husband despite an overwhelming state machinery threatening her and her family, and one who dared to brave a Magistrate to state her case. 

Respect. 

 

 

 

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on December 11, 2020 17:48

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