I think those bullets were meant for me. Those were the chilling words of Rosemary Smith, mother of Durban University student Rosanne Williamson, who was badly wounded in what has been described as a hit at her home in Mtunzini this week.
Williamson is recovering in a Richards Bay hospital after major surgery to remove bullets from her chest and hand.
Preliminary investigations show that the target of the attack may have been Williamson’s mother, Smith, a businesswoman who usually drops her 10-year-old son Reece at school. On the day of the shooting her daughter decided to let her have a lie-in and take her brother to school instead.
Smith said some of the circumstances in which her daughter was shot led her to question whether it was a hijacking gone wrong: “If you look at the way the shots were grouped on the window, it looks like it may have been done by someone who had training. If it was a hijacking they would have pulled her out and taken the car. I just don’t know.
“The gunman just shot her and then he ran off. He was gone. He didn’t take her phone or any of her valuables. It raises a lot of questions,” Smith added.
The dark tinted windows of the Toyota Fortuner that Williamson was driving would have made it impossible for the gunman to confirm who was in the driver’s seat. But bullets fired at close range indicate that the intention was to kill the driver.
Speaking from her hospital bed, the 19-year-old chiropractic student tearfully recounted how the lone gunman fired into the car at point-blank range: “I had decided to take my mom’s car and we reversed out of the gate, and while I was waiting for Reece to get into the car I noticed a man on my right with his back to me and I thought nothing of it.”
While the vehicle was still in the driveway of the impressive home, the gunman rushed towards the car.
“Suddenly he turned and lifted the gun. He pointed it at me and just started shooting. Reece ran screaming and I could see him sprint into the house.
“I was trying to get out of the car and I saw how much I was bleeding, and tried to get to the stairs. That’s the last thing that I remember,” she said.
Williamson suffered multiple gunshot wounds and was critically injured. Her brother escaped with a graze on the neck.
She added that her family had been badly shaken by the shooting and that she had turned her attention to her recovery.
“I’m feeling okay but I’m still in a lot of pain. I have been trying to block out what happened to me and just focus on getting better. The trauma my family has been through is immense. The doctor said I should be able to go home in two weeks. I have had so much support from my family and friends, everyone has been amazing,” said Williamson.
Smith told the Sunday Tribune that her daughter had offered to drop her brother at school on a whim. “I take Reece to school every day and my daughter volunteered to drop him so I could sleep in a bit. I heard the gunshots and flew out of bed. I was running down the stairs and Reece had already run into the house and was screaming that Rosanne had been shot,” she said as she held her daughter’s hand.
“I ran outside and I couldn’t see her anywhere and I was petrified because I thought the gunman might still be out there. I then saw her stumble out of the car and she collapsed in my arms at the foot of the stairs. She was full of blood and I just held her and screamed.”
She said that two doctors, who live near their Mimosa Road home, arrived in minutes. “We were extremely lucky and she is alive today because of their quick intervention.
“They put her into a bakkie and drove her to Ngwelazane Hospital with a doctor on the back seat with Rosanne, and they had stabilised her. I just thank God they were there so quickly.
“Reece is very traumatised. All he wants to do is speak to his sister and hear that she’s alright. We are a very close-knit family.”
Imvula security guard Bhekani Shongwe said he had been on patrol when he saw the alleged gunman running from the scene. “I tried to stop him and when I confronted him he fired a shot at me, but it didn’t hit me. He was running away and I chased after him. There was another exchange of fire and I wounded him before he jumped over a wall into another property.”
Shongwe said the gunman fled into a nearby sugarcane field and his bloodied shirt was found nearby.
Smith slammed the local police, saying their response left a lot to be desired. “It is a two-minute drive from the police station to our home. That says it all,” she said.
A source close to the family said they had left their Mtunzini home and were staying at an undisclosed location for fear of another attack.
Private investigator Brad Nathanson said it was unlikely that the attack was a botched hijacking. “In my opinion and from what I know about the shooting, this smacks of a hit,” he said.
“Firstly, it is rare for a Toyota Fortuner to be hijacked – these are not high-risk vehicles. Secondly, the gunman made sure he was close enough to the car to hit his target and, when the shooting was finished, he made no attempt to take the vehicle or remove valuables. It sounds dubious to me,” he added.
Nathanson questioned what the gunman had to gain, responding to speculation that Smith might have been the target of the attack.
Williamson’s parents are purportedly stakeholders of Mashobane Electrical, an Empangeni-based electrical contractor that installs, among other things, high and low voltage power lines.
The company secured several tenders from KZN municipalities and from Eskom.
The attempt on Williamson’s life could not immediately be linked to the business’s operations.
Mtunzini Ratepayers’ Association spokesman Steve Hermann said that violent crime in the coastal town was unheard of.
“Shootings are not at all common and on the whole we have very little crime in Mtunzini. This is a big incident for us,” he said.
“We have initiated a donation programme where residents can contribute to a reward for the successful apprehension of the gunman.
“We want to send a message that you can’t come on to our streets and perpetrate acts of crime. We are a small community and we will band together to stop this scourge.”