POEM: On the Shooting of a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl


Who among us will be remembered?

None of us will survive.

Not the journalist, the one who wrote about Marikana, about the shooting of striking miners, which preceded the shooting of a 17-year-old girl.

Nor the filmmaker, the one who made the documentary about the social movement of shack dwellers, the movement whose leaders told us about the situation, the ones who witnessed the shooting of a 17-year-old girl.

There’s the General Secretary of the movement, the one who spent seven nights in jail, thousands in bail,

And who is now writing a book because she feels she didn’t do enough to prevent the shooting of a 17-year-old girl.

Then there’s the lawyer, who posted her bail, who pleaded in court in vain to stop the evictions, which led to the protests, which led to the shooting of a 17-year-old girl.

And then there’s the professor who got his students to leave aside their drinking for an evening, to come and listen to someone speak about the shooting of a 17-year-old girl.

There’s the anthropologist, the one who arranged things (conferences, words, outfits) just right, the one whose piercing thesis made grown men shudder, the one I met years back, before the time of the shooting of the 17-year-old girl.

And then there’s the minister, whose cloth of purple, band of white, showed up

At the embassy on a Monday at lunchtime to pray for justice for the unjust shooting of a 17-year-old girl.

There too was the toothless man once homeless,

Who came as always with his cane and a cigarette, the one who is always there, whether or not there is the shooting of a 17-year-old girl.


None of us will be remembered.

Including, I fear, the 17-year-old girl.

The small ones in history rarely are.

That is why we publish articles, make films, write books, organize conferences, post bail, say prayers, shake our canes and write poems.

Because we want the next ones to hear,

To dig us up somehow,

And to remember that there once was a journalist, a filmmaker, a secretary, a lawyer, an anthropologist, a priest, a homeless man and a poet

Who were troubled by the shooting of a 17-year-old girl.


Main Photograph: Abahlali baseMjondolo members gather in Cato Crest, Durban, to discuss increasing police violence against the community, and the social movement. Repressive police tactics has seen several ordinary citizens being injured and killed by police during protests. In October, 17-year-old Nqobile Nzuza, who was a passer-by, was shot and killed by police. Photo courtesy of Abahlali baseMjondolo

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