HAJI MOHAMED DAWJEE: WANTED: Man who drops child into pit latrine
In the book industry, the crime/thriller/horror/mystery genre is the fourth largest, most popular and widely read. In fact, it rakes in close to $73 billion a month. Why? Because as the human species, we are obsessed with knowing what makes the human mind tick, what makes us behave the way we do, make the choices we make and effectively, what is it that makes us break?
It’s the same reason we’re obsessed with listening to true-crime podcasts or binge-watching real-life documentaries on serial killers on Netflix, such as How to Make a Murderer, for example. We are by our very nature involved in these stories. We’re involved because we’re invested as humans, in the nature of other humans. We’re not fond of fear and anxiety, yet we seek it out because we can live vicariously through something that has nothing to do with our lives in any immediate way.
When we listen to or watch or read this genre, our adrenaline flows and activates a part of our brain that isn’t normally activated. We’re getting a dose of chemicals that make us feel euphoric and somewhat in control.
How? Well because we’re constantly comparing ourselves to the Unabomber or the Zodiac Killer and saying:
"I am better that that. I have gained insight into the mind of this person, that alone is a thrilling adventure, but I have come out on the other side knowing that I am a better person. I am morally superior. I am able to take the higher ground and totally incapable of committing a heinous crime like lowering a child into a pit latrine to grab a cellphone."
And I can’t stop thinking it about it, but I’ll tell you why after I’ve spent a brief moment jogging your memory on the event that ended up with a child in a literal sh*t hole.
Lubeko Mgandela is 49 years old. He is a school principal. A job which by its very nature means that you are trusted with the wellbeing of hundreds of kids every day and in order to fulfil your duties, you must also trust that you are capable of taking on the responsibility. Mgandela is none of these things. He is the principal who allegedly lowered, or rather asked other students to lower, an 11-year-old pupil down a pit latrine filled with human faeces to retrieve Mgandela’s cellphone.
The 11-year-old who emerged covered in human excrement after spending an hour knee deep in the stuff to retrieve the principal’s phone because he was promised R200 is now too ashamed to attend class. Reports say Mgandela faces an attempted murder charge.
This is what we know. These are the reports. This is what has been covered.
But here’s why I can’t stop thinking about it… what makes a fully grown adult think that such an action, that request, even that thought, is by any means a good idea? What was going through his mind? Is there something severely wrong with his brain? Is he in fact a psychopath? What made him tick, what made him break?
In South Africa, or perhaps this is a global habit, we tend to tell the stories of those who have suffered, the survivors, the victims etc. But we don’t often get a chance to look pure evil in the eye and interrogate what it is that makes them horrific people.
And I get it. Many an argument has been made that perpetrators should not have a voice, that they do not deserve the attention and they must be kept silent and face the judgement of the public court as well as the justice system.
Now, I am not advocating that we do not tell the stories of those who have suffered. Of course, those are the ones who should be front and centre. But here’s what I want and here’s what I want to see more of. I want Mgandela’s number. I want an appointment with him. I want to hit the record button on my phone and ask him what went through his mind? Does he have any regrets? How does he feel, as a person? And why did he make that choice? Why did he choose that bad over the good? I want him in the hot seat.
I don’t want silence and peace for him while things happen behind closed doors. I want a 3,000 word feature on the man who dropped a child into a pit latrine filled with human waste to fetch a cellphone he dropped while using the latrine himself and promised the desperate child R200. And I want every single person to read that story and see the face that did that. To climb into the mind of the madness that made that decision and what let him justify committing such a heinous act.
Send me his number. I have questions. And we want answers.
We want answers because we’re human, because we care, because in this case, I am sure we already feel morally superior because it is something I hope the majority of us would never do and we want answers, because we want this man to stand and face the questions and take accountability for his actions.
Give him a face. Give him a name. Give him a voice. Not for pity, but for the sake of pure insight into the mind of madness.
I want to see the face of evil and I want him to face me.
Haji Mohamed Dawjee is a South African columnist, disruptor of the peace and the author of 'Sorry, Not Sorry: Experiences of a brown woman in a white South Africa'. Follow her on Twitter.