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The day of the first democratic election was initially a very scary one for me.

In the weeks preceding the elections there had been violent protests all over the country.

In fact, I was personally affected by one protest from Alexandra to Edenvale Hospital, where all the windows of my house were smashed with rocks, as were those of all my neighbours.

It was particularly terrifying as I did not have burglar bars on my windows and, at the time, I had three children in the house, all under the age of 10.

Pushing the panic button did not help as emergency vehicles could not get through anyway.

It also didn’t help that at the time I had a helper from KwaZulu-Natal who was an avid IFP supporter and who ran outside into the garden, fists raised in the air, yelling “f*** the ANC” at the top of her voice.

Also during those weeks, The Star photographer Ken Oosterbroek was shot dead during one of the protests.

So, on election morning, I left the house with trepidation, not knowing what I would be facing, and not knowing whether I would see my children again.

After Oosterbroek’s death, The Star issued all of us journalists covering what were perceived to be dangerous areas with heavy, bulletproof vests, and we were instructed to go in only in police Nyalas.

In those days, cellphones didn’t exist. We were using pagers. We would have to ask people, businesses and shops with landlines for permission to use their phones in order to file our stories.

At the time, The Star had a number of editions (I think it was six a day), so we had to constantly keep updating – much the same as we do today with social media.

Our very first voting site already had long queues, which were surprisingly subdued. The people were warm and friendly and very keen to be interviewed about their first ballot.

The Nyala then took us to several other polling stations, where the same scenario played out.

After visiting the fifth peaceful station, I asked to be taken back to my car, where I ditched the bulletproof vest, got into the car and drove back to Alex to continue reporting on the day, alone, but feeling completely safe.

The police later informed me that it was the only day they could remember when there wasn’t a single incident of crime.

The Star