I should have listened to my mother’s words when she told me, “Play, my son, but please don’t take your playing too far. It might lead you down a route you never wished to take.”

I was walking to school with my friends Pitso and Selebogo. We took the sidewalk of Dr. Belcher Road, where we would feast our eyes on the passing cars. Some were on their way to work while the taxi cars rivalled one other in pursuit of passengers.

As we walked, Pitso was on my right, a bit farther from the road, while Selebogo was on my left, closest to the road. Selebogo and I were passionate writers so each and every morning on the way to school we would share poetry. Usually one would brag that his piece was the best. But that day, our pride took both of us too far, so we started pushing each other. The pushing escalated without any negative intentions. I pushed Selebogo with all the energy I had. I pushed him with full force, and he staggered to the left, unable to control his movements like a drunken person.

He stumbled into the street in front of an empty bus. It swerved into the other lane to avoid hitting him, colliding with a full bus that was coming from the opposite direction.

The car behind the empty bus couldn’t see Selebogo in the street and crashed into him so hard that his body flew into the air. Pitso and I saw the entire horrifying scene, from its beginning to its end.

It was unbelievable that I was the cause of that entire catastrophe. My regret was so powerful that it drained me of my energy and I found myself dropping to the ground. But suddenly I lifted myself back to my feet and pulled on the entranced Pitso so that we could flee. I didn’t flee because of the legally justified outcome of my actions, but rather out of fear of the community mob of Heidedal. This mob had no tolerance for wrongdoing, and they didn’t wait to reason out the details of a case. If they believed you had wronged the community they would beat you and burn you to death.

Last week, a fourteen-year-old boy was murdered when a child declared that the boy had stolen his phone. Later, it was discovered that the boy they had murdered was not the thug that had stolen the phone, nor was he involved in the theft. He had only sold the phone. Unfortunately, the child who owned the phone discovered it while at a tuck shop and went straight to the community leaders to report the boy he suspected of the theft. The community mob attacked the fourteen-year-old suspect like a pack of wolves.

So we fled unnoticed, my heart pounding heavily like a drum. I didn’t know what to do, so Pitso and I decided to not go to school. We went to a factory dump called Dynamite at the back of Twin City Mall. We often went there when we bunked school, but that day I went there to ease my troubled mind.

We left the Dynamite when school was out, but I loitered and went home late. When I arrived home, my mother was watching the daily news. I sat down to join her.

“Today on Dr. Belcher Rd, a severe accident took place. The accident was caused by a school pedestrian whose identity remains unknown,” the TV blared. The screen showed pictures of the scene and the disaster in the road.

“I’m here at Dr. Belcher Rd, where 32 lives have been lost because of a pedestrian,” the news reporter continued.

The screen flashed to a man crying. It was the driver of the bus. “When I was driving, a school boy from Dr. Blok pushed another learner into the road. Then I, I, I panicked a-a-and I steered the bus into the other lane, to avoid hitting the child, b-b-but another car behind me hit him,” the driver stammered.

Hearing and seeing how much pain I had caused made my heart pound like it was coming out of my rib cage. Selebogo’s picture from the ID in his school bag was projected on the screen.

“If you have any information about the mischievous boy who caused this accident, please inform your nearest police station. The boy is said to have been wearing a Dr. Blok Secondary uniform and he is dark in complexion,” the journalist said, concluding his report.

I went straight to my room and lay down. I was worried to death about the dark tragedy I had caused. By this time I was as hungry as a lion, but I felt so guilty that I had no appetite.

Monday came. Matters got serious as soon as I walked through Heidedal on my way to school. I had never seen Heidedal flooded with posters like that – they were all different but the subject was the same: “Reward of R10 000 for the Devil’s Child”, “Hell is where you belong and we are going to send you there, Devil’s Child”, “You are as mischievous as your father, the Devil” and “Devil’s Child must be burned to death” the posters proclaimed.

People were highly angered and I couldn’t blame them for how they described me. They thought of me as the Devil’s Child because I had slaughtered dozens of people, including my own friend.

“Don’t worry, David,” Pitso tried to persuade me as he saw me gazing, entranced, at the posters. “No one knows that it’s you.”

From the frying pan into the fire… Community members stood around the school holding anything they could use as weapons – shovels, spades, garden forks, golf clubs, baseball bats, you name it. The police had thus far stopped them from doing anything, but the mob was waiting for the driver to identify the Devil’s Child who had caused the massacre. The driver went into each and every class trying to identify me. He got to our class and luckily, he didn’t recognise me. This was probably because I had cut my hair over the weekend to avoid recognition.

The community became flustered when they saw that the driver couldn’t identify the “Devil’s Child”. They even tried to protest in front of the school, but they were chased away by police teargas. I was relieved when the bus driver left without identifying me, but still I had the chain of guilt overwhelming my soul.

Later that day, all the learners were sent to the school hall, where our principal tried to persuade the culprit to reveal himself. After he spoke, a police officer added, “Devil’s Child is the name they gave you, but we know that isn’t your real name. We don’t want that name to be used when describing you, so please come clean and let us resolve this matter.”

No matter what they said, the guilt in me never pushed me to come clean, though in my heart I was full of regret. After assembly, the day continued as normal, but everybody was busy talking about the “Devil’s Child.” Some said they knew him, some claimed they were his friend, but only Pitso and I knew the real Devil’s Child.

A few corrupt learners embraced the name and wrote it on the school walls, bragging that the “Devil’s Child” was a destruction master, while the virtuous-minded claimed that he should be ashamed of himself for dragging the school’s name through the dirt. I was already beyond ashamed of the name they used to describe me. Every time someone mentioned the name, I felt like I was being stabbed.

Later that night, the news again covered the accident. Those who were interviewed exclaimed anger and promised me death. But I feared nothing, as they did not know my identity.

Bang! Bang!

“Open up!” I woke to heavy knocks on the door.

“Who is it?” I asked nervously.

“It’s me, Mr. Anderson,” replied the voice behind the door. Mr. Anderson was a noble and respected member of our community.

“It’s the middle of the night! What can I help you with?”

“Please open – it’s important.”

I wondered, with curiosity but without fear, what could be so important that he would come to me in the middle of the night.

As soon as I opened the door, a mob flooded the gate and the yard. I became entranced by the flares held up like lamps. Suddenly I was pulled into the middle of the mob, the bulls-eye of everything – fists, kicks and stones came flying down on me. They tormented me until I couldn’t even stand. They put me inside two tyres and started dousing me with petrol.

“N-O! N-O! NO!” I screamed with anguish. I woke up right as I jumped from my bed to the floor yelling, “NO!”

In the morning, Dr. Belcher Rd was blocked by stones that the Heidedal community had torn from the pavement. The community said they would not halt the protests until the Devil’s Child was discovered. I didn’t want to take any chances and changed my route to school.

The protest reminded me of my nightmare and my body started shivering, as if I was locked up in a fridge. When I reached school, the angry community and the cops were there again. This time, they showed the extended reward of R50 000 to learners. They knew from the driver’s information that on the day of the chaos, there was another witness who walked with the Devil’s Child, though they could recognise neither Pitso nor I. I had no worries, knowing that Pitso would never say anything.

At break time, a teacher called me to the office, saying he wanted to interrogate me, as he was doing with everyone. But as soon as I stepped into the office, I saw Pitso holding his head as he gazed downwards, with officers standing around him.

“I’m sorry, David,” Pitso cried. “Bu-but, the-they said they wouldn’t arrest you.”

I did not plan to flee because I knew the game was over – that was the naked truth. As they say, nothing lasts forever. My true identity was revealed and truly speaking, I felt relieved, as I feared living with this burden in my heart.

The police handcuffed me and led me to the police van. I was speechless and filled with shame. When the community saw that I was handcuffed, they immediately knew that I was the Devil’s Child. They were furious as the police van drove out, throwing stones and blazing sticks, but luckily I survived.

In the interrogation room at the police station, the officers asked me to tell them the whole truth, so I walked them through the full story. Luckily, the court granted me a bail of R1000. Though my mother immediately paid the money, I stayed in police custody for two weeks for the community to finally find peace in their souls.

When I got out, Pitso told me he regretted snitching on me since the police hadn’t given him a cent. I still felt the burden of 32 lives lost because of me, so I decided to cut the chain of guilt that still hung around me by writing the full story of the Infamous Devil’s Child. So I began…

I should have listened to my mother’s words when she told me, “Play, my son, but please don’t take your playing too far. It might lead you down a route you never wished to take.


Tell us: Would you snitch on your friend for money?