Photograph © Ilan Godfrey

GOOD Magazine

Saneliswe Radebe was alone in the living room when the gunmen arrived. Sitting on the sofa watching TV, the slender 17-year old heard a vehicle crawl toward the house in low gear. It was March of 2016, near the end of the South African summer, and already dark outside at 7:30 p.m. A blue light flashed through the curtains. “It’s the police. We’re looking for Bazooka,” one of the men shouted, thumping on the front door.

Bazooka Radebe, Saneliswe’s father, was in an adjacent room. He had taken his trousers off after work, like he did most evenings, and was dressed in a black shirt and underwear. He didn’t emerge when Saneliswe shouted for him, so the boy opened the front door. The two men wore gloves and plain clothes. One carried an assault rifle, the other a pistol. They lifted their weapons and shoved Saneliswe backward, forcing their way inside. “We’ve come to arrest your father,” they said, looking around at the empty chairs.

Bazooka’s son cried out once more—“There are people here! They say they are police!”—and watched as the men made their way down the tiled corridor. Bazooka was still in his underwear when the men hustled him outside.

A stolen white hatchback idled outside, the flashing blue light temporarily affixed to its roof. The actual owners of the automobile were two teenaged boys, tourists who had been held up by the fake cops near Port Shepstone, a wealthy resort town roughly 40 miles up the coast. One of the teens sat tightly bound in the car’s back seat, witnessing the scuffle. The other lay in the trunk, stuffed out of sight.

The car’s headlights illuminated Bazooka’s rural home—a large single-story structure with patches of bare plaster, facing a scrapyard strewn with machinery and trash—the sort of building that, though comparatively grand in a poor neighborhood, seems permanently incomplete. The vehicles cluttering the property were evidence of Bazooka’s success as an entrepreneur, taxi boss, and mechanic—trades he’d used to lift himself from a life of poverty.

As Bazooka struggled with the intruders in the driveway, Saneliswe remained in the house, first dialing Tarzan, his 28-year-old brother, and then the local police station. Moments later, Saneliswe heard several gunshots, then a car speeding off. He stepped into the yard and saw his father sprawled on the ground, bleeding into the dirt. By the time Tarzan arrived 20 minutes later, his father was already dead.

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