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'He chose not to get involved in violence and paid a very high price'

A sudden blast from a shotgun blew off a part of the face of 17-year-old teenager Lorenzo Pietersen.

A sudden blast from a shotgun blew off a part of the face of 17-year-old teenager Lorenzo Pietersen.

Published Jul 22, 2020

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by Brian Wiliams

A sudden blast from a shotgun blew off a part of the face of 17-year-old teenager Lorenzo Pietersen.

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This unspeakable violence was at a period of joyous celebration at the start of the year. Not far from where he was lying in a pool of blood, there were people safely in their homes.

Blissfully unaware of what had happened, some of them were singing at braais, others were listening to music and many were already fast asleep. One family about a 100metres away heard that loud bang at about 1am on January 1. Llona Crouch and her daughter Beyoncè were startled by this sudden single sound, which pierced the pitch dark morning air. They both got up.

Crouch started crying uncontrollably and said that Lorenzo was shot. Her 17-year-old daughter told her mother that she was imagining things and that “it was New Year celebrations and probably a firecracker”. Her mother remained restless and could not sleep.

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Crouch, the previous afternoon had told Beyoncè about a premonition that Lorenzo was going to be shot. She reminded her daughter about this conversation. Beyoncè remained quiet and remembered the words of her mother. She also remembered that Lorenzo had spoken to her the previous afternoon and said in Afrikaans,”Hulle gaan my dood maak (they were going to kill me).”

Beyoncè got up early and decided to ask people if they heard the “bang” in the early hours of that morning. Some of the neighbours confirmed and added that “Lorenzo was shot and killed”. Head of the Anti-Gang Unit Andre Lincoln and the commander of the Kensington police Colonel AS Scanlen, busy with an operation in the area, were at the scene where a number of people had gathered.

Suddenly Lorenzo sat up! Some curious bystanders fearfully jumped back, and it was described as a “Lazarus” moment.

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Lorenzo started talking while videos and photos were taken of him. A section of his blown-off face revealed the gruesome extent of his life-changing injuries. He was rushed to hospital and after extensive surgery and was eventually released. The violence had disfigured his face and caused permanent blindness.

Lorenzo told me that he will never be able to see the sunshine or flowers or watch the moon as it rides across the evening sky. He said that he can feel the rain and smell the grass but his regret is that he will no longer visually enjoy such natural beauty any more.

Lorenzo is a soft-spoken teenager who has a caring heart and a gentle spirit according to his friends.

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Faith Julius, a peace ambassador said she and “Lorenzo were at the same primary school”.

Pedro Pietersen, the father of Lorenzo was saddened by what had happened to his son. His grandmother, Leonie Pietersen, spoke lovingly about him. She expressed concerns that Lorenzo just sat in his room all day. She said that “his whole life he was able to independently do the smallest things for himself: he could go to the bathroom, wash himself, make his own food, leave the house, walk to the shop and perform basic work around the house”.

Suddenly everything changed, not only for Lorenzo but also for the family. The circle of young people that Lorenzo had been with are no longer around and one of them was shot and killed early this year.

I recall my own horror when I first saw the video of Lorenzo and listened to him explain what had happened. There are different versions of what actually happened. One version is that Lorenzo had refused to participate in criminal violence. According to this version, his refusal was viewed as a threat by those who were planning to commit acts of violence. Based on this version, he had to be silenced. Lorenzo has not identified who shot him and I respect his silence.

Kevin Inglis stated that “we always call upon people to choose the path of peace and not violence. This is what Lorenzo did. He chose not to get involved in violence and paid a very high price for that decision”, Inglis, a renowned community leader in the Kensington-Factreton area, said. He added that society had a duty to protect and support those who refused to participate in violence.

Lorenzo attended his first peace ambassador peace training on July 8 and shared his tragic experience. At the training, Shanique October asked him if he felt vengeful. He said no but explained that his life was not easy now. He expressed the desire to become a certificated peace ambassador and said: “I am now on my peace journey”. As a society we must go beyond just applauding Lorenzo but act to support him.

* Professor Brian Williams is Visiting Professor in Peace, Mediation and Labour Relations. University of Sacred Heart, Uganda and chief executive: Williams Labour Law and Mediation. Thought Leader Award 2018: Issued by Black Management Forum.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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