SHE crouched over the stream, a baby tied to her back. It was eerily quiet given the circumstances. She was a young woman, probably my age at the time, in her mid-twenties. She splashed water over an aluminium pan, the rinse being the finale in a mundane daily ritual performed by thousands of poor women across South Africa. But her fastidiousness struck me. The water was barely a trickle and the ground around her was stained with blood.
I had stumbled through a field a few minutes earlier, following the hiss and crackle of police radios. I wasn’t sure if she had noticed me. Quite likely not. For the most part, she kept her head down. Somehow we existed for a few minutes in a curious bubble of silence amid the mayhem. When she shifted once or twice to readjust the bundle on her back, her face remained impassive, perhaps quietly determined. That was my take anyway.
I was transfixed. It was early in the morning. I had a sling bag over my shoulder and a reporter’s notebook and pen in my hand. I was there to cover another political massacre. This one was no more or less horrific than the last, but, like other journalists, I had made this my beat so I needed to be there...
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