Bully death: the pain of two families
Nkululeko Ndlovu’s grandmother puts her wrinkled hands together, closes her eyes and bows her head as the sounds of prayer and hymns wash over her.
It’s Thursday, and five pupils from Phineas Xulu Secondary in Vosloorus, Ekurhuleni, are holding a prayer in the room in which Thandiwe Ndlovu sits on a mattress, mourning the grandson she raised.
Nkululeko died two days ago, killed by a bullet to the head, which was allegedly fired by a schoolmate.
“He was a very quiet somebody,” the 71-year-old woman says of her grandson, who was in Grade 10.
“Even when you reprimanded him he would listen. He gave me no problems as I raised him.”
It’s a very different story to the version that has made headlines this week: schoolmates have revealed that Nkululeko and his friends had been bullying the boy who allegedly shot him.
Thandiwe says: “What hurts is the label they have given my son, that he was a bully. If he was a bully, he should have started with me.”
His mother, Portia Bambiso, interjects and asks: “Even if he was a bully, did he deserve death?”
Nkululeko loved soccer and dreamed of playing professionally. He also loved to draw. “Anything he drew was beautiful,” Portia says.
They still had not heard from the alleged shooter’s family when City Press spoke to them.
Thandiwe says: “If they had ubuntu and were empathetic, they would have contacted us. We wish for the families to be reconciled.”
The family also wants justice to take its course.
“There is no bad thing we wish for them (the alleged shooter’s family),” says Thandiwe.
Just a few minutes away is the alleged shooter’s home.
Downcast and sombre, he hardly looked up during his brief appearance in the Boksburg Magistrates’ Court on Thursday morning.
The boy, who turned 18 in September, came from Limpopo with his younger brother to live with his mother last July, a relative who asked not to be named told City Press.
During his court appearance, the magistrate ordered that the boy not be identified. He is due back in court next Thursday.
The boy’s relative told City Press: “He is not outspoken. He is quiet and a hard worker. He told me he wanted to be a doctor.”
His mother, a police officer in Vosloorus, placed her sons in nearby schools so she could support them.
The boy often told his family he was being bullied at school.
“He was humiliated,” his relative told City Press, recounting how his possessions were taken from him and his tormentors slapped him around.
The boy’s family was adamant that although he was bullied, if he did pull the trigger his actions were wrong.
Explaining why the family had not contacted the Ndlovus, the relative says: “In our culture (the family is Tsonga), when two fight and one dies, we stand together.
“In ubuntu we hold hands, we don’t allow things to fall apart. I have failed to find a mediator for us to go and say sorry to that family.
“We want someone to stand between us and that family. We are so sorry and ashamed that this has happened.”