The accident, 8th February, 1991

In 1991 Leonard was the manager of a furniture shop in the small town of Mount Frere in the Eastern Cape. Every day he drove from his home in Kokstad to work in Mount Frere. On week nights and on weekends he was a soccer player in Kokstad.

On the day that changed his life, 8th February, 1991, he woke up early and prepared as usual for his day at work. He was on the road by seven o’clock. He whistled softly as he travelled. “By eight o’clock I’ll be in Mount Frere,” he said to himself. The road was busy. Everyone was in a hurry and many cars overtook him. As he drove around a bend his car suddenly swung out of control. “Oh God!” he screamed. “What is happening now? Help, please help, I am going to die!”

The car overturned and he was thrown out. This was the last thing that he remembered until he felt someone shaking him, saying, “Wake up! Where do you come from? What is your name?”

Dan Hands Furnishers

Leonard as store manager of Dan Hands Furnishers in Mount Frere (1990).

He opened his eyes. A truck driver was looking down at him. “What happened?” Leonard asked anxiously. “Move this car off me.”

The truck driver said, “There is no car on top of you, young man. We are going to help you. What is your name?”

“If there is no car on top of me, who is sitting on my feet? Where does all this blood come from?” Leonard asked, getting more and more anxious.

“Just hold on. Try to relax, young man,” said the truck driver. “We will call an ambulance for you. It won’t take long, you are going to be fine.”

A crowd had gathered at the scene of the accident. The road was blocked. Everyone wanted to know what had happened. The police arrived and ordered the people to move away from the scene.

“What was the cause of this accident?” asked a policeman. “Who was involved?”

“I am an eye-witness,” replied the truck driver. “This man is badly injured. I don’t know his name yet.”

The policeman came closer to Leonard.

“Young man, are you still alive?” he asked. “Can you hear me? What’s your name?”

“Yes, I am still alive,” Leonard replied faintly. It was hard for him to speak. “I’m Leonard Gregory. Please rush me to the hospital, I’m dying.”

He could hear women in the crowd praying for him. By this time the ambulance had arrived. They carried him to the ambulance and rushed him to the hospital in Mount Frere.

There was a long queue at the hospital. Some people were on the floor, and some of them were even lying in pools of blood. Leonard could hear them groaning in pain. A nurse looked at him and shook her head. He was bleeding heavily, but the nurses could not help him because of the number of people waiting for attention. “Can the ambulance take me to another hospital?” he begged in a hoarse voice. A nurse looked at him and shook her head. Ambulances from the Transkei were not allowed to take patients to hospitals outside the Transkei.

Fortunately the nurses were able to find a car which took him to Grey’s Hospital in Pietermaritzburg. At Grey’s the doctors examined him. It was clear that he was severely injured and he was admitted immediately.