Janet N’tozini, 18, didn’t just die a hero. She lived as one too.
The Muizenberg High School matric pupil was stabbed in Vrygrond three times, once in her side and twice in her back, for defending a disabled boy on Sunday night, March 3. She was attempting to stop an attack on the boy, unarmed.
A 23-year-old suspect from Capricorn was arrested for murder, and detained later that same evening.
While family and friends mourned Janet’s loss, the suspect appeared in the Muizenberg Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday March 5.
Captain Stephen Knapp of Muizenberg SAPS said the case was postponed to Wednesday April 10 for a bail application. The accused is remanded in custody.
Muizenberg High School principal Leonie Jacobsen said Janet’s death was not in vain, that Janet has brought honour to her community and school and that her name would now be placed in the school hall – beside that of Anne Frank and Malala Yousafzai.
It’s been a week of tears at the high school, the news of Janet’s actions reaching far beyond the community in which she lived.
“Janet stood for something, she stood up for a vulnerable person in our society, and more than that, she was at risk herself every day. She was also a vulnerable person in our community; so her courage was even more remarkable,” Ms Jacobsen said.
She said we all live, we all have to die, but not many of us make the sort of impact that Janet did, with the quality of choice she made.
“We complain easily – us with our First World problems – but I have wondered often this past week how many times we would have made the choice Janet did,” Ms Jacobsen said.
She said that Janet acted on, and activated, the hero in all of us.
“If you consider the environment that many of our children live in, you have to stop sometimes to weigh up what they face between the time they leave the school gates, and return again the following day,” Ms Jacobsen said.
“Down every street, every day, they are faced with choices we can barely believe. And our choices reveal everything about us. Janet’s choice was clear. She didn’t hesitate, she didn’t think twice. And in that moment, I see the moral guidance of her grandmother, and the effect that her school had on her,” Ms Jacobsen said.
Ms Jacobsen said that Janet’s grandmother, Novusile Adelaide N’tozini, who raised her, had spoken to her and together they had cried, and laughed, about the fiery-spirited girl who was once a handful herself, and how she transformed through her love of school and soccer.
Janet had arrived at high school with a long list of transgressions and an attitude to match. “Oh, she fought. She was wild. She didn’t care. It was her first port of call, her defence. And her change certainly didn’t happen overnight. But essentially, one year, she made a new decision. She discovered sports – she loved soccer – and she turned her life around,” Ms Jacobsen said.
Janet remained fiercely independent, but now instead of fighting against the rules, she embraced them.She donned her high school uniform one day and voluntarily addressed the Muizenberg Junior School children.
She explained to them the importance of rules, of choosing good friends, of doing the work. She told the children about their responsibility in doing the work, and in wearing their badge with pride. She explained to them the difference they could make in their own lives through making good choices, she told them about accountability.
These weren’t just words to Janet, she put her life on the line for her beliefs.
Tammi Grace Williams said on Facebook that the speech Janet gave that day last year made such a positive impact on her 12-year-old. “She spoke about overcoming her challenges. She was a true inspiration.”
Lallaette McGillewie said on Facebook that Janet was a past pupil of hers. “Janet had so many challenges but she rose to the top like a champion with the support of many mentors, one of the most notable being her high school principal Leonie Jacobsen. May the way she died, in defending the helpless, be an inspiration to everyone whose life she touched. Janet was a brave, feisty, lively, talented, energetic, crazy child.”
Ms Jacobsen said Janet had had her finger on the pulse of the community, saying that when a girl student went missing once, it was Janet who gave the police the relevant information about where she could be found.
Janet’s official memorial service was held at Muizenberg High School yesterday Wednesday March 13. It was an invite-only event, for the school and for family and Janet’s school soccer kit was given to her grandmother, for Janet to be buried in.
Ms Jacobsen said that all the different factors of Janet’s life came to the fore, as different groups in the school came to her to ask if they could sing, or recite something, or make something for Janet’s farewell. “Janet will be kept alive in our hearts.”