March 17 2009 at 07:04AM
‘I remember his eyes. I remember that cold look, the laugh, the grin and then the click of the gun.” These were the chilling words of a Pretoria mother of three, Edri Myburgh, who along with her mother-in-law survived being shot in the head at point-blank range during a botched robbery.
Myburgh, 26, her mother-in-law, Anna Myburgh, 55, and domestic worker, Paulina Zithobeni, were attacked in their Bronkhorstspruit home last month by two men who allegedly tortured the trio for hours with a hot iron.
The suspects, Helton Matsimela, 27, and Daniel Motshwarateu, 22, a gardener at the Myburgh home, were arrested within hours of the attack. They were caught soon after they smashed the Myburgh family’s car as they fled along a deserted farm road outside Bronkhorstspruit where they had allegedly shot the two women.
Zithobeni, who was forced back into the car at gunpoint, was left paralysed after she was hurt in the crash. She is in a serious condition in Steve Biko Academic Hospital.
‘I remember being pushed next to the tree and the men walking towards us and shooting’
Speaking about their six-and-a-half-hour ordeal, an emotionally strong Myburgh, whose left side of the face is paralysed by a bullet which shattered her jaw and is now wedged in her skull behind her left ear, said she could clearly recall everything that happened.
“I remember being pushed next to the tree and the men walking towards us and shooting. Mom tried to ask them to phone Dad to say goodbye, but they would not let her. They didn’t say anything except the one who laughed and grinned at me. Then he just shot. I remember my mom turning her head as the man pushed the gun against her head and shot. That was it.
“I remember the blood. I screamed and begged to live. I remember crying and telling them I have children and then going strangely calm,” she said, describing how a surreal deathly quietness descended over her.
Praying over and over again to survive so that she could watch her children grow up, Myburgh said she felt a “white light” surround her as one of the gunmen pointed a gun at her and shot her in the face.
“When the gun went off I knew in my heart I was not going to die. I knew I was going to be all right. I knew I was going to survive. I knew it was not going to be my last day on Earth. There was a loud bang and then nothing. Everything was quiet.”
After regaining consciousness as her attackers fled, Myburgh, saw her mother-in-law’s body sprawled in a bloody heap behind a tree, and she began running. “When I woke up and saw her on the ground I thought she was dead. When I heard the gunshot go off and saw her fall I thought she was gone.”
Ripping off her T-shirt and pants to stop the bleeding, Myburgh stumbled, crawled and ran nearly 15km through thick bush to a nearby church for help. A farmer driving to Bronkhorstspruit for a doctor’s appointment spotted her and took her to the local hospital, where her mother-in-law is being treated.
Describing the series of events as miracles, Myburgh said she should not be alive.
“If they had the right ammunition in the gun I would be dead. If I had brought my children with me to their granny to go do shopping they would also be dead. If I had not prayed I would be dead.
“The doctors say it is a miracle that we are alive. We were meant to have survived,” she said, adding that many people across South Africa were not so lucky.
Describing her lack of anger towards her attackers, Myburgh said it was because she was alive.
“I am not angry because I am alive to watch my children grow up and because the criminals have been caught. I have forgiven them because if I do not, then I will never be able to carry on with my life. I have made peace with God about what happened and now they have to do the same,” said Myburgh.
Asked if she was planning to leave the country as a result of this incident, she said she would not.
“Why must I leave? South Africa is my home and I am proudly South African. I am not afraid to say that and I am not afraid to live here.”
Matsimela and Motshwarateu are to appear in the Bronkhorstspruit Magistrate’s Court on April 2, on charges of armed robbery, attempted murder, theft and possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition.
This article was originally published on page 4 of Pretoria News on March 17, 2009