While the legal guardian, Cathy Thomas, and biological mother Lucille Williams, of nine-year-old Leo Williams were in talks with social workers and doctors at Red Cross Children’s Hospital in Cape Town, friends and family members waited anxiously for more than two hours for the latest news on his condition.
Eventually, when a tired Aunty Cathy emerged from the hospital, she told them she wanted to sit down and talk to them. She needed time to inform them about the condition of Leo, who was shot in the head while a violent protest was occurring in Laingville, St Helena Bay, on Friday 31 July.
He was watching TV and playing with his friends in a corrugated structure when four policemen are alleged to have fired at least eight rubber bullets into the shack. But a bullet struck Leo in the head. It is not clear whether it was a rubber bullet or a live round.
Residents are adamant the police fired the shot while police management say their members had withdrawn from the area at the time of the incident.
“Leo is going to die. The medication that has been pumped into his body to keep him alive since the incident must first be drained from his body. There is no way that he is going to live and doctors told us even if he comes back, it will be a day or two before he eventually dies.
“I’m prepared for everything. I cannot stand against the work of the Lord. I don’t want just 50 people at his funeral because everyone wants to attend. His funeral must be televised,” Thomas said.
She adopted Leo when he was three. It is a bitter pill for her to swallow to say goodbye to the little boy she raised for six years.
“During the time I was at Leo’s bedside, the Lord had prepared me. He showed me the white coffin in which Leo is going to be buried. I even asked the Lord to please take me and let Leo live. The Lord then asked me who is going to look after him when I’m not there any more,” she said.
Leo’s biological mother, Lucille, said: “This is my first child that I’m going to lose and bury. It wasn’t easy to see my boy lying with all those pipes in his body in the hospital bed. I still have four other kids and I’m pregnant with another one.”
On Thursday 13 August, Leo’s father, Adrian Thomas, arrived for the first time at the hospital and after long deliberation with security staff, he was eventually allowed to see his son. He took a bunch of flowers from the school in Laingville Leo attended.
“It was hard seeing my son like this. He was just watching TV and playing in the front room inside the corrugated structure when he was shot. My son was full of energy and loved playing with his friends and that is how I remember him,” the father said.
Social workers informed the family that the hospital management was angry that photos taken of Leo in the ward had been put on social media. On Thursday, the phones of family members were confiscated by security guards before they entered the hospital to prevent a recurrence.
South African Human Rights Commissioner Chris Nissen arrived later at the hospital and said:
“We must accept that until he passes on he is still alive and look at in what way we protect his dignity. That’s why we ask everyone to keep him in their prayers.
“The family can in the meantime talk with the lawyers. If he lives or dies there is a case. Regarding the civil matter, the Legal Resources Centre will come out personally to the family to talk to them and gather all information relating to the incident.” DM