Bullets, stones and a file

Every morning I wonder what the next surprise in my life as a journalist will be. What time will I come home? Will I sleep at home, or in the hospital?

About three years ago, I had just gratefully sunk into my bed after finishing a Covid-19 story, when I heard the siren of a fire truck. “No way!” I thought. “I just got home.”

“Fire!” shouted my four-year-old Zion from her room. A fire truck sped past my house, followed by two more.

“I think this one is serious, said my teenager Cornelia, standing by my bedside with the car keys. They were already on the way to the garage, despite me telling them to get back in the house.

As we approached the Twaloloka location, it felt like I was in a dream. This was the biggest fire I’d ever covered. I parked the car as far as possible from the scene, and instructed the children not to open the car doors.

As I ran around taking pictures, I encountered the usual problem from residents: “Why are you taking pictures? Can’t you see people are losing their things? You journalists like to take pictures. I will beat you!”

Others shouted: “Leave her alone. She is a journalist. She’s taking pictures for the news. I will beat you if you beat her!”

I usually ignore them.

After running around for a while, I was suddenly caught up in a crossfire of rubber bullets and stones. Angry residents were throwing stones at the fire trucks, which led to the police retaliating with rubber bullets.

“I need to get out of here,” I thought, running among the mob. “Where is my car? Where am I?” I ran around in circles for the next 15 minutes before I finally found my car.

“We saw you running past the car many times,” said little Zion.

“Why didn’t you open the door?” I asked.

“You said that we shouldn’t!” Said Cornelia. I was just glad to make it home.

This year, however, started with an early surprise when angry Walvis Bay residents protested following the suicide of 25-year-old Fabiola Zondjebo after alleged maltreatment by her manager at Shoprite. It resulted in activist Michael Amushelelo leading a demonstration at the town.

My media colleague Eveline and I spent days reporting on the peaceful protest, until that Friday, when everything spun out of control.

I was still busy taking pictures of Zondjembo’s today in the funeral car when dispute broke out between protesters and the police. “Let’s move. Something will surely happen” said Eveline, who found safety.

“I stayed for a while to take more pictures.
Suddenly, I was caught in another crossfire as the public vented their frustration at the police after Amushelelo’s arrest.

“Media, media,” I shouted, indicating my media card. “I don’t care. Move, before I beat you!” warned a member of the riot squad.
Scrolling through my messages in bed later that night, I saw a message Eveline had sent earlier. “Riot squad is here!”

I was just grateful I made it safely home.

But a few weeks later, we were caught by another surprise while reporting on a suspect at the magistrate’s court. As usual, we started taking videos.

“Don’t take my picture,” the suspect said.

We continued. We were used to this… but I never saw what came next. I just remember a green file almost hitting me on my head. I shielded myself with one arm, while continuing to take a video with the other.

“Hey! What are you doing?” shouted the shocked police officers. The angry suspect turned around and surprised Eveline. The next thing I saw was her cellphone flying in the air.
At least we made it safely home…

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