"We had a terrible tragedy here in Kimberley," moms said over the phone.
What kind of tragedy can be so tragic right now I thought. My mind was not ready to stroll away from Egypt.
"In the early hours of this morning the guys who run Just Rite (a community supermarket) were murdered in cold blood after they responded to a burglar alarm on the premises," she continued.
"Kimberley is in shock. You must know one of them because he was in school with you."
"He was just a young man with small children. Who does a thing like that? They shot him in his head and shot his older brother too. Then they locked the place up without taking a thing. The police did not come and the security company did not even know what happened."
"Iqbal. Are you talking about Iqbal the little guy," I asked.
"No Ridwan his name was Inayet."
My heart sunk. I did remember Inayet even though in the years since primary school and high school in Kimberley he never entered my mind. I even forgot his name.
Inayet was a quiet boy in school who did not stand out in any way. He weighed about 100 pounds and never really got into trouble or just about anything else.
Just before my dad died in 2009 I went to Just Rite with him and Inayet was there serving customers. It was our first meeting since the early 80s. I looked at him and remembered the small space(s) he filled. He was small still and he had a full head of black hair with a longish fringe. Just like in high school.
"Salaamu Alaikum Ridwan," he said and then immediately looked away.
As we walked out of the shop I kept thinking he looked exactly like he did back then. He barely aged and had not gained even a pound.
He survived I thought. The ugliness of taunts by some coloured students who called Indian students "coolies" and marked them as weak.
He survived the ridicule. And he had survived Kimberley.
"People say he was a good man. He helped the community and folks are devastated," moms added.
"Who would kill Inayet? I mean he was the least threatening of all the folks in high school. He obviously worked hard and was a good community man and family man," I said.
"They say it was a hit. Some say that it may be competitors who had him and his brother taken out. This is a terrible place now," moms replied.
I called a few of our old classmates and some of them struggled to remember Inayet.
"Oh yes he was so quiet. A lekker ou (nice guy) but not really someone who got into trouble hey," one bra said.
"Hell Ridi what the f*ck is happening to our hometown and our people in Kimberley," another wrote in an sms (text) message from Australia.
I don't know what is happening but I am so sorry I did not speak to Inayet. I did not know his brother Rafiq but I also hardly knew him even though he was there everyday through many years of school.
The last time he waved my way he was driving toward his supermarket in an older BMW. I was standing on a sidewalk shielding my eyes from the bright December sun. There were a couple of kids in his car.
I remember thinking that it was nice that we were waving at each other. It kind of made up for the distance of then and the spread of years since.
My heart breaks for his family. I don't know them off-hand but I bet if I saw them they would be familiar. Kimberley is like that. A small town with a big hole where everyone knows everyone.
So why would anyone kill Inayet and do so execution style?
What in the world can be more important than a life? Inayet hardly lived.
May Allah rest his soul, and his brother Rafiq's too.
We are such a violent country now. Just a few years ago (April 2008) my friend Bryan was murdered in his new home and we still don't know who did it or why.
Makes me worry about my moms and just about everyone I know in South Africa.
Update (February 18, 2011): It has emerged that Inayet and Rafiq were beaten to death with a blunt object and not shot. A 22-year old Lesotho national living in Galashewe has appeared in court as a suspect but family and friends doubt whether the "small frame" man could have acted alone.
See The New Age article entitled "Family Doubts Killer Acted Alone" (February 18, 2011).