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This story is about a 3 year old girl and her Mom whose lives were changed in when they witnessed a double shooting at a taxi rank.

For 30 years, the trauma suffered by Emily, who later became an alcoholic and 3 year old Angela whose innocence was shattered has haunted me.

Angela was born in 1989 a few years before the official end of apartheid in South Africa and lived with my family.

Apartheid was the segregation of South Africans from 1948 based on the colour of your skin. You were classified as White (Caucasian), Black (African) Indian (Asian) or Coloured (mixed race). Other minority groups were slotted into one of the above as the authorities saw fit.

They even had a “pencil test” - not to see if your boobs were still perky, but much more cruel. If you were a light skinned Coloured and the authorities weren’t sure if you were white enough they would put a pencil in your hair and if it stayed in place you were regarded as Coloured. (1)

We had the Group Areas Act and you lived in different suburbs depending on the colour of your skin, we were educated in different schools, segregated on buses etc.

But I digress …

Angela’s mother Emily was our domestic worker and, as was fairly common in middle and upper class households, Emily had a room on our property where she and Angela stayed so she didn’t have to travel on a daily basis.

Once a month Emily and Angela would go home to Hammanskraal a designated black township a couple of hours away from where she lived. She used to catch 2 minibus taxis - one to Pretoria and a 2nd one to her home.

On her return back to our home when Angela was 3, I asked Emily about her weekend. This was her matter-of-fact response.

“Well, it was fine but in Pretoria we got into the taxi and they shot the driver, so we got out and into a 2nd taxi and they shot this driver too. We then got into a 3rd taxi and it was OK.”

I was totally incompetent to provide the support they needed and I doubt that, Angela if she has survived, has managed to to get the necessary trauma counselling.

In 1995 our family moved and we were no longer able to employ Emily and we lost touch. I wish I knew then what I know now.

(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pencil_test_(South_Africa)

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