There are two sides to a story, or at times three, four or even five. No story is as it seems, that is until it has been told from every angle.
Take this one that landed in The Star newspaper’s email inbox.
“Urgent Urgent Urgent,” the title of this electronic missive screamed.
The email told a dramatic tale. It began like this.
Kosie, who is 22-years-old, was driving home early one evening. He was heading through Kiblerpark, in the south of Johannesburg when he stopped at a traffic light. Ahead of him was a police van. Suddenly the policemen got out of their van, and beat Kosie. They broke his nose, left him with a gash above his eye and a cut running down his leg.
“They beat the crap out of him,” summed up the email, that his stepmother sent.
Police brutality always gets news editors jumping and there were gory pictures to go with it too.
We discovered Kosie was at Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital, in the Intensive Care Unit. If we hurried, the photographer and I could chat too his dad.
We got there to find his father standing outside the ward where his son was.
His son remembered little of what happened, but others did.
The father cleared his throat:
“Well my son was…”we slipped into the realm of version two of the story.
Kosie was heading home, the father learnt. He hits a pothole, then loses control of his car, which runs into a fence.
Someone calls someone, and a police car arrives on the scene. Out of the car pop two civilians, one is an ex cop, who is a friend of the police who drove him there.
The ex cop beats the crap out of Kosie.
During the fight a firearm is drawn and a shot discharged.
Ok, not as dramatic as version one, but cops escorting civilians to an accident scene, allowing them to pull a firearm and beat the crap out of someone, it was still a good story.
Then Kosie’s sister arrives to see her wounded brother lying in the ward, and the tale twists once again and morphs into version three.
Karen, Kosie’s sister, gets the story from two witnesses, who were at the scene. I phoned one of the witnesses later, Karen’s story rings true.
Kosie is heading down the road, when he hits that pothole. He loses control of his car and it runs into that fence. His car also ends up in a ditch, and he can’t reverse it out.
Kosie phoned a friend called, Teffen who lives just down the road.
Teffen soon arrives with his uncle. By this time, Kosie’s encounter with the fence has drawn the attention of the two brothers who live in the house. One of their names is Pierre and it is Pierre’s brother who is the ex cop.
Realising that this was fast becoming a volatile situation. Teffen’s uncle tells them, that they come in peace and that they should “sort this out like gentlemen”.
The problem is that in Kiblerpark, in the south of Johannesburg fighting is as natural as…well lets say they fight a lot.
Pierre comes over and smacks Kosie. This is no smack on a baby’s bottom. The smack drops Kosie to the ground.
“You see my brother is a skinny oke (guy). Pierre is huge, with big muscles, he is an ex bouncer” explains Karen.
Then Teffen, comes to the defence of his friend, but another smack and he too was on the ground.
That was when Pierre’s brother stepped in. With him there was no smacking, his hands, balled into fists, let fly.
He broke Kosie’s nose, leaving him with two black eyes. He beat the crap out of Kosie.
Teffen and his uncle backed off, so they could call the cops. They lost sight of Kosie.
A short while later Karen and her mother pitch up. Karen finds a police van searching for her brother. He is no where to be found that is until a private security company calls to say that there is a report of a bleeding young man cowering in someone’s garden.
They head to the house and there is Kosie. At first he doesn’t want to leave, but finally his mother convinces him to open the gate.
Kosie is rushed to hospital.
This is no longer much of a story for the paper. Just common assault that happens thousands of times in a city where even the most violent of crimes fight it out for column inches.
When we left the hospital we realised Kosie would mend. The only problem he was facing is his own criminal charge.
The owner of the house where Kosie had taken refuge, is peeved.
“This guy is phoning non stop, he wants my mother to come and clean up the blood or he is going to lay a charge of trespassing,” Karen says, wiping tears from her eyes.
She bursts into tears again: “All this for a fence, that would cost R25 to fix.”