DEATH OF OUR CHILDREN – ONE MONTH ON
You will remember that on Friday, 16th October 2020 at 10:30 we activated Starlite VCAT-7 Air Support (NPO) to Harrismith to assist Const. Rajen Sanders, a KZN Provincial Hawks Member, with his extended family after a high impact collision involving their car and a truck which had veered onto their side of the road. Rajen over the many years of working together has become a brother to me.
No words can sum up the loss of two children that was experienced on that tragic day – with tears and prayers being poured out as the remaining family members struggled to cope with their unimaginable loss.
The SAPS investigation and all processes are being followed and supported by SVS (Specialised Victim Support) Stage 1 Hot – 72 hours to 90 days. Being immersed in this case has once again underlined the desperate need for rapid development and rollout of the SVS platform for our country.
I would like to share with you some key aspects and learnings that each and every person is part of, from pauper to President, and all our guardians in the Police Services.
Travelling in the vehicle was a family filled with love, who had reached a time in their lives in which an incredibly special circle was formed – husband and wife, daughters and son… In the intimate and close environment of a road trip, the six souls in the vehicle would have been enjoying one another’s company, planning their day, their evening and their future together.
Yet while we have no idea what their exact future plans may have been, their hearts and minds were bound together. They concentrated on this family circle from sunrise to sunset before they looked outward to the world. Every bit of energy would have been poured into it like a magical shower of blessing over the lives of the young children. New life paths were starting for husband and wife, who gently clasped one another’s hands. The two became a family, who in turn formed part of our community, our nation and our world.
We all want to hold onto these moments for eternity, and I guess we do, as life after life is born and we all go through different moments of parenthood to becoming grandparents and then onward to our passing.
The circle and life path of perfection that I am referring to is that of a family unit:
Father: Muhammad Cassim Vorajee, 44 years
Mother: Anisa Vorajee, mother, 43 years and in the centre of their world
Husna Vorajee: daughter, 11 years
Lameeha Vorajee: daughter, 8 years
Yusuf Muhammad: son, 6 years
Nusayba Muhammad: daughter, 2 years
When the truck hit them with a high impact, the front bullbar ripped and sliced through their Toyota Fortuner. Anisa looked at Muhammad who was trapped and in a very dire, life-threatening situation. We believe she saved his life by opening his airway as he was drowning in his own blood.
She then looked over her shoulder and noticed that the right-hand side of the vehicle was missing, and she saw little Husna (11) lying on the tar, torn right out of the vehicle with the other three children.
This family circle are of Muslim faith, and the occupants of a vehicle who noticed their personalised number plate stopped to render assistance. This was followed by many others who each played a vital role at the disaster scene, something I have never experienced before. In a clockwork supportive role, these witnesses and helpers assisted the accident victims and gathered facts, which would be vital later on in the investigation. Reporting to their members that they needed a quick and special burial is another example of the faith, respect, dignity, love, care and empathy involved in this community. Some spoke to the family and those of us in emergency services, and I must mention, to my knowledge, none of them knew the family other than by their faith – yet this made them family, as was clearly demonstrated.
After encouraging Anisa to unlock the door and getting little Nusayba (2) safe, she was assisted out of the wreckage, and made her way around the front and realised that Lameeha (8) was dead, while in front she saw little Yusuf (6), at which point she dropped to her knees, lay over his lifeless body and cradled him in an act of intense grief.
She was supported by another Muslim woman with a hand resting on her back, and another on her own heart. The hardest thing in Anisa’s life was to let go and get into the ambulance – even more so while Muhammad was still being stabilised and cut out of the wreckage. I think this woman demonstrates to us all the power of kindness, empathy, care and love for others in its purest form, being present and a guiding strength to lean on.
Husna (11) was quickly surrounded by emergency service workers, stabilised and removed from the scene.
There was so much going on involving so many incredible people, you simply cannot begin to unpack each aspect of the assistance rendered, or begin to describe the intense emotional effect on the shattered lives of this family, torn apart and then rescued on the N3.
Muhammad has never been in an accident in his life and was known to drive at a slow, steady pace. In fact, it was said that he would drive with his family in a cotton ball, indicating that respect for others was something he took very seriously.
After interviewing Anisa, discussing the months ahead and sketching out the roadmap of SVS, the healing path and investigation, we asked what she would like us to focus on? Most victims respond with justified anger to the situation and see our first point of relevance as policing and justice. However, what happened next illustrates the incredible power of humanity, without any anger and focusing inwards. Anisa only had one request: “Pray for her Muhammad”. That whisper in the lounge was, in fact, a rolling thunder across our nation, because you are reading it now.
As a nation, we lost little Lameeha and Yusuf to their untimely deaths! Or did we?
We lose life daily to the unthinkable and as a nation we move on almost as fast as we have read the story which I think is something we really need to work on. This is due to the sheer volume, we simply don’t share in grief with each other unless it directly impacts us. We are mere bystanders. But what if these little lives were the start of a new day, we will only have lost them if we forget their lives, and if we don’t stand by Muhammad and Anisa and grieve with them, taking in all the vital life lessons! As a nation, we can change the future, afterall, we want our world to be better than yesterday.
At some point, we need to start a new book and a new day in road safety. We need to lift our hands in agreement, not because the law is changing or we are told to be safe, but rather to do this because we know it’s right. One hand will become two, and two will become three, and before long we will have changed our nation. The power of hope, the power of one person or the power of two children is something that may have been written for us all to take note of.
What if all of us were not there to help but rather to learn?
Anisa told me that in her view each and every aspect of these little lives are written and recorded, down to their very smiles.
It was so hard for me to hear that and while I am still processing it deeply, I can only agree that these little lives, this family circle, this community whom I passionately serve, have written the following lessons for me, based on our daily work to support road deaths and priority red code cases that require Specialised Victim Support (SVS) for all of us to take heed of:
- Speed Kills
While rules and laws create certainty, is it really about “Speed Kills” or more about a deep responsibility for others? I drive your family and you drive mine.
- The law currently says it’s ok to drink and drive – but only two drinks?
Is it about the fact that the two drinks are ok? Our pilots are aware of the “8-hour” rule, that is, 8 hours from bottle to throttle, although many airlines have a more stringent 12 hour time limit. Why do we all buy into this for a pilot but we don’t enforce it for drivers? Not one of us would get into a plane if we saw a pilot with a drink in their hand, yet for driving it’s simply OK.
Think about what we teach. We teach our children that it’s ok to have just two drinks because you are not really drunk, just slightly impaired and you will be OK. I think we have double standards because of the norms we have become accustomed to.
As far as medications are concerned, like all pilots, you simply have to inform the doctor or pharmacist that you are steering a vehicle or aircraft, you are responsible for other lives so the medication needs to be alcohol-free. Bearing in mind that if you are sick and your concentration is lowered, would you drive my family, or let me drive yours if the roles were reversed?
- Minister Fikile Mbalula
We need to support Minister Fikile Mbalula in all his endeavours, to set the highest benchmark and not just be an average achieving nation. Zero alcohol or medications will be the norm in our family life. Totally opposite to my personal life path from where I have come, but I have learned the lesson.
- Police Reservist
Let’s call this officer “LO” who has been working with the SAPS covertly since 1994. Appointed as an A-class reservist in July 2000, I called on him to help capture the facts and work with Anisa to document this tragic event.
Watching this long standing friend whom I have not crossed paths with for some time, I believe he was a gift to this case. It reminded me of what an exceptionally well trained, skilled, passionate, dedicated, and experienced volunteer can do. I must also add that, at present, he is not employed and is suffering heavily from the COVID-19 economic wrecking ball. The Investigating Officer for this matter is in another province and this case needed the best of the best to step forward to ensure that the truth has a voice and that all drivers in every vehicle in this accident are protected.
If we are going to change our world, we need to measure a person by the size of their heart, determination, unique skills, passion and sheer grit to look after the nation, and by nothing else.
Imagine if every police station had just two guys or gals like this, who were supported by an NPO basic cost recovery structure to cover the time and travel expenses for those volunteers that wanted to contribute and support?
- Community and Unity
Muhammad is on the path of recovery. He has been moved to rehab and will soon be told that two of his little children in their family circle have passed on. Muhammad is still existing on past memories and has much grief to process and to establish for himself the last memory of his children before the accident. The support from his community and the deep bond of unity will surround him and protect him. I further believe that the nation will hear the thunder and from all corners of South Africa, Anisa’s prayer will be answered.
Little Yusuf and Lameeha’s lives are not forgotten. The grief is intense but their magic is spell-binding. If this story has not touched our nation, I shudder to think what will, as it stirs human emotions in their purest form. In every vehicle, in every truck, in every family travelling on our roads, these two lives and their legacy will sit with us.
Muhammad, when you get to read this, I want you to know that while you were sleeping and healing your family was protected by you. We simply did what you did each and every day. It took so many people that it is impossible to list them all: at a high level, there were members from our Police Ministry, Commanders, pilots, air crew, and all specialised medical personnel. Doctors, nurses, hospital staff, traffic officers, fire and rescue personnel, tow truck teams, and all the members of the public who stopped to help. Your direct family, extended Muslim family and your community in unity simply cannot be measured. However, it is just unreal to see this reflection of yourself because I know you would have done exactly the same if you were passing by. What we put into the world is what we get out of it…
Anisa, I wish I could say that we in emergency services have helped, and of course, I recognise our role and the role of many others that we have to walk with and engage in the future. I see life and death each day, but this incident has not just taken life, it has given more life than we will ever be able to quantify and in this way, you have actually helped us.
Yusuf and Lameeha’s lives, and your very humble and dedicated soft-spoken words, your leadership as a wife through those streaming tears has become the seat belt and a legacy in road safety for 60+ million people, rolling thunder of prayers and hands raised.
THANK YOU for the trust, support and believing in something far greater than yourself, and for allowing tragedy to turn into hope!