Death is a thief; for he comes unannounced to your doorstep in the middle of the night, in any shape or form. This story is about how death threatened to come to a family cushioned in wealth, where lips were sealed; a suburban family that on the outside looked perfect but behind whose walls trouble resided.

What started as a sunny, breezy Friday afternoon, with birdsong floating through the air of the leafy suburbs of Johannesburg, turned into a bitter suburban nightmare at the Radebes’ house. The Radebes, after arriving home from lunch at a nearby restaurant, were met by a terrible scene. Their son Muzi lay on the floor convulsing; his tongue wrangled in his frothing mouth. His veins throbbed like taut strings against his skin; and his eyes bulged towards the heavens for help.

The family raced to him. They knelt down on the marble floor of the dining room as he jerked to and fro, in and out of consciousness.

“Muzi, Muzi, my boy,” his father shook him. His mother took his head on her lap and tried to hold it steady. Tears streamed down her cheeks but she managed to control herself enough to tell her husband to call an ambulance quickly.

Muzi was rushed away to hospital.

It wasn’t the first time Muzi had suffered a near-death experience due to substance abuse, nor was it the second. The young man was a drug addict who had been bailed out of trouble by his parents numerous times. He was a rebel, a lost boy, a kite soaring through a thunderstorm.

Now in his late twenties, Muzi was still without a career and had no proper direction. He had tried his hand at different jobs without sticking to any of them. This didn’t sit well with his parents. Muzi was not an adult, he was a man-child, and they were deeply disappointed in him. Here was a child they had taken to rich private schools, a child they had invested in. They had had high hopes for him and wanted him to follow in their footsteps. Despite all this, deep in their hearts, they still loved him and hadn’t given up on him.

In the early hours of the morning Mr and Mrs Radebe walked the corridors of the private hospital. His mother wore a short-sleeved black satin dress that accentuated her petite figure, and a silk scarf.  Mrs Radebe looked the epitome of elegance and class. Mr Radebe was large and plump, and was casually dressed in khaki shorts, a red shirt and sporty sneakers; as if he were off to play a casual game of golf right after seeing his son.

As they walked into Muzi’s private ward, they found him awake, sitting up in bed dressed in a blue hospital gown. His face was grey and reflected the turmoil inside him.

“How are you, my dear sweet boy?” Mrs Radebe broke the silence as she quickly rushed to his side.

“Mmm, hardly a boy,” said Mr Radebe, frowning.

“Don’t mind your father, we’re both worried sick about you, my boy. Your father and I are both glad to see you alive, and getting better.” As Mrs Radebe was saying these words of comfort and care, she was interrupted by her husband.

“Muzi! You want to see your mother done for, don’t you? You don’t love her, huh! Every time you do these things you raise her blood pressure and endanger her life. When will you grow up and be a man? Stop acting like a selfish little boy.”

A moment of tension swept the room. Muzi moved about uneasily on the hospital bed. He was disappointed in himself. He was in turmoil. All he could do was look down and nod; he couldn’t look his father or mother in the eye.

“Oh dear, don’t mind your father. He just wants to protect all of us. We’re here for you, son. What do you want? What do you need? Tell us and we will help in whichever way we can, sweetie.”

“Spoiled I tell you, spoiled. We’ve taken you to the best schools; given you a lifestyle above the dreams of most youngsters in this country. And now you bite the hand that has fed you since you were an infant. This is the third time we have brought you to hospital. It’s back to rehab for you. And this time, if you run away, don’t ever come back to us. Be assured I will cut you off from your inheritance this time around. I’ve had enough of your delinquency.” Mr Radebe’s nostrils flared as he stared ferociously down at his son.

All the while, Muzi kept his head bent and mumbled, “Hmmm, I hear you … I’m sorry.”

Mom and Dad played good cop, bad cop until Muzi agreed to go to rehab again. He had been to three rehabs already and none of them had kept him on the straight and narrow. It was time for somewhere new.

Mrs Radebe had heard of such a place. It was said to be unconventional but there were reports that the people who had gone there were transformed miraculously. She had heard this from a friend who had heard it from a friend. And now was the time they needed a miracle.

Mr Radebe had phoned the number for the rehab and the manager had sounded calm and professional. He had assured Mr Radebe that his son would be in good hands.


Tell us: Do you think the Radebes should send Muzi to this new rehab?