By Tafi Mhaka

You cannot escape the brutality of gun violence in South Africa. You can ask the father of Zahnia Woodward about the life-changing ordeal he suffered last year on December 30. Zahnia, a bubbly-looking baby girl from Ocean View in Cape Town died after a stray bullet pierced her tender flesh and body, just as her father sought to flee a gang-related shootout one fateful Friday.

Cindy Woodward, Zahnia’s mother, is still devastated no doubt. She is desperate for answers, and determined to get justice for her daughter. She has been posting grief-filled prayers and sending messages to Zahnia on Facebook.

“No more pain my baby. Free from this cruel cruel world we living in. A world where monsters get to see the next day and my oh so innocent happy little 6 month old baby gets shot!! 6 MONTHS OLD!!!! May your sweet happy adorable soul rest in peace my baby.”

Half a year, sadly, is all the time Zahnia had on earth to bond with her parents and enjoy life a little. So there will not be any special moments at crèche or high school for her parents to cherish. Nor will there be a fairytale romance for Zahnia or her parents to treasure and behold later in life.

All that remains in the aftermath of a moment of madness, for Miss Woodward to clutch to, is deep-rooted anguish amid the cold and barren reality of life gone wrong. After the trial of the man accused of killing Zahnia is concluded, the media frenzy over her death will diminish hastily, and South Africa shall forget Zahnia in a hurry.

When will the guns go silent in South Africa? Stray bullets never stray far in this life of ours. A stray bullet could fatally strike you while you are on a brief jaunt to the mall to buy a fresh loaf of wholewheat bread, and proceed to unleash a lifetime of heart-rending regrets and agony for your beloved family and friends to wrestle with.

Unlike the glitzy and surreal carnage moviegoers see in Hollywood blockbusters like Pulp Fiction, the Quentin Tarantino cult classic, the business of gun-related violence occurring in homes and shopping centers in South Africa is, for a lack of a palatable term, ugly and bloody, and as deadly and real as life can possibly get.

So you cannot possibly appreciate the extraordinary stories of all the blameless men and women killed in gun-related circumstances. Or fully empathise with the mundane biographies of children like Zahnia who fell victim to thoughtless violence.

You can never quite understand or share the pain Miss Woodward is experiencing, as her baby never really got a fair chance at having a full life in the first place.

But you can acknowledge that guns are lethal weapons. So other faultless South Africans, much like Zahnia, will die in similar circumstances.

It is just a matter of time before the next Zahnia Woodward or Reeva Steenkamp or Senzo Meyiwa is laid to rest somewhere in South Africa.

It will not be long before another horrific gun-related death hogs the headlines and triggers further discussions around gun ownership.

For all the brouhaha over the right or need to sanction private gun ownership in South Africa, do remember, you can’t buy immunity from gun-related violence.

There is no guarantee of sorts to fall back on should a stray bullet head towards you one fine Friday morning.

And there is certainly no exemption certificate for you to present should you come face to face with a gun wielding maniac in your home or neighbourhood.

The woeful demise of six-month old Zahnia Woodward, last December, is living proof of this much-ignored reality.