The IT Girl
Punello Grifits, well known as “Punny”, is a Sotho woman but was raised by her adopted European parents.
As a toddler, Punny moved from her grandmother’s house in Soweto to Johanessburg where her mother worked as a domestic worker.
Punello’s mother worked as a full time servant for the Grifits family. Little Punny was left at the servant’s room while her mother was working inside the Grifit’s double story house. It was only when her mother was finished doing her duties that Punello was given attention.
When Punny’s mother died of cancer, Punny was adopted by the Grifis’ family and took her as their very own.
As a kid, Punello was a beautiful little girl that everybody loved playing with. Her adopted parents enjoyed spoiling her and were full of pride when people complimented about her beauty or about her well behavior.
Punello’s then life was always smooth and she enjoyed privileges that were said to be enjoyed only by white kids. She lived a life that children of her age were wishing for and were envious of.
Her adoptive parents were very supportive and loving towards her. They made sure that all her special needs were taken care of, and provided her with all that she asked for.
During her primary level Punello’s adopted parents took her to a private school and encouraged her to participate in some of the interesting sports played at her school.
She was indeed a genius and a good athlete too. Her parents never missed her sport competitions, and couldn’t stop bragging to people about their precious adopted daughter.
Punny’s golden life ended when the Grifits biological daughters came back from London to study their high school level in South Africa.
It was then that Punello was treated like an ordinary black person. Her adoptive sisters made her feel so small and inferior. They bullied her and made her believe that she will never be considered as part of their family again!
Even before she could reach high school, Punello was forced to drop out of school so she can be made a full time servant. Just like her late mother.
“Just because you were raised by Europeans doesn’t mean you are as superior as them. You will always be a black child of a servant. And a servant is all that you could ever be,” Simantha, one of the Grifits daughter once said to Punello.
Punello had always dreamed of being a model, though she believed that chances of her being one were slim.
When there was a post at an agency looking for young beautiful girls to be part of their modeling agency, Punny secretly emailed her details but didn’t include her race as she felt it would affect her chances of being accepted by the agency.
But she didn’t hear from them for months.
She thought that it was because they didn’t think she was beautiful or maybe because they were not impressed by the way she wrote her letter. But then she heard and saw that her adoptive sister, Hillary, was suddenly part of the agency. She discovered that Hillary had swapped her own photos instead of Punny’s.
Even when Punello was old enough, she wasn’t allowed to go back to school or at least look for a proper job. At the age of twenty, she still worked as a full time servant for the Grifits family. She was given hard duties but earned no wages.
When the Grifits hired a gardener, Punny finally found someone to talk to, someone to keep her company when the Grifits had gone to work.
The gardener’s name was Vusi. Both Punello and Vusi became pretty close as they were left alone during the day. Vusi lost both of his parents at a tender age and was left to raise his little sister by himself. At first sympathy was what drove Punello to Vusi, but after she saw how loving Vusi was she started falling in love with him.
And soon they started seeing each other secretly.
When their superiors were present, they acted serious and as if they didn’t have time for each other. But when the Grifits were not around, they cuddled and behaved like crazy in love lovers.
When Punny could no longer tolerate being discriminated against by her adoptive family, she absconded from her home and went to live in Vusi’s house, which was left for him by his late parents.
The couple was so in love; love birds. Though they hardly disagreed with each other, but Vusi didn’t approve of Punny wanting to join a modeling competition. But regardless of that, Punny loved him and felt good and secure living with him.
Until one night.
Vusi, no longer worked as a gardener for the Grifits because he feared they might ask many questions about Punello’s whereabouts. Punello entered a modeling competition without her boyfriend knowing.
One night Vusi was working night shift which meant Punnelo was left all alone. Though she loved her boyfriend’s company, she had no problem being alone; she was used to it.
She stayed awake till late at night waiting for her Vusi to come home. But then she felt sleepy, and went to switch off the lights, made sure the doors were locked and closed the curtains. But as she went to the kitchen, she was tripped by a masked person and beaten hard on her legs with a tennis bat. She was later hurried to hospital by Vusi when he found her on the floor.
The call to fame
After the attack Punello was not able to walk again. When her doctor told her she won’t be able to walk for the rest of her life, she felt her dreams fading.
She could no longer be one of the girls modeling a range of clothes designed by top class designers or be part of the group of girls who shoots a commercial advert.
She felt hopeless and vegetate. She did not only blame herself for staying up till late, but also blamed God for giving her a talent of modeling only to take it away by disabling her.
Her sorrow was worsened when her agent told her she had to be replaced with another model.
But because Punny was a confident girl who never gave up easily, she went back to the same place to seek for a job, and she was at least offered a job at the agency’s administration.
It was then that the manager of an international company came to her agency to seek for models that would be the face of his products. But then he was disappointed to find that none of the models were pretty enough.
He was at administration, nagging to the agent about not finding the perfect model, and Punny overhead their conversation. She privately made the manager aware that being the face of a product is not only about the beauty but also about being confident, loyal and devoted to the product you are promoting. And with that, the manager felt inspired that he appointed Punny to be the face of his product.
When Real Life magazine’s journalist showed up at Punny’s mansion in Sophia town, the suburb of Johannesburg, she was grateful to be welcomed inside her house though she didn’t book any appointment with her as others do.
When she told the purpose of her visit, Punny was annoyed.
“Don’t you journalists get tired of writing one and the same story? Because I’m tired of having to explain myself or be reminded of that painful incident.” Punny argued.
Punny first hardened her heart and refused to answer any question, but because Necia was a good speaker, she managed to convince and soften her to speak out.
Punny then stated that she assumed that it was Hillary, her adopted sister who had attacked her. Because on the very same day she was attacked, Hillary had come to her place declaring that she came to make peace between them.
During Necia’s interview with Hillary, she asked her why she waited till that day to make peace between her and Punny. Hillary reasoned that she had wanted to make peace with Punny long ago, but couldn’t get hold of her. And when she had found where she stayed, she had been busy. She said it was only that day that she was offered a day off at work.
On the other hand, during her interview with Vusi, she found that Vusi was working as a security at the sports center.
When Necia had gone to Hillary’s work place, it was proved that indeed she had a day of that day. And when she went to Vusi’s, his boss confirmed that Vusi was indeed working night shift that night. Because the night before, there was a break in at the sport center and tennis equipment were stolen.
It was then clear that the tennis bat that Punello was beaten by was the same tennis bat that was stolen at the sport center. There were no signs of forced entry or any windows broken. But the door was found unlocked the next day after the break in at the sport center.
Since Vusi was the last person to leave the sport center’s premises and was the only one who had a spare key, he was then called in for interrogation.
“I’m sorry Punny,” was what Vusi said when he was asked if he had anything to do with Punny’s attack. “I warned you not to enter the modeling competition. When my mother died, my sister wanted to commit suicide but I encouraged her not to.
She had no money to continue with school and entered a modeling competition so that if she won she could be able to pay for her school fees. I disapproved of you joining the competition because I figured you might be a threat to my sister. But when you went behind my back and joined the competition, I had no choice but to separate you from her way of success.” Vusi added.
Punny admitted that though her incident was a painful one, she does not view it as an accident instead a purpose. Because if she didn’t go through it, she wouldn’t have realised that when God has a plan, no weapon formed against it shall prosper!