How a tragic attack is showing South Africa an amazing friendship

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A story about South Africans being there for each other after a tragic attack is reminding us of the “real” South Africa!


Alessio Ballerini and Phumi Ntloko have been best friends since the first day of high school, they met and knew from the get-go that they would be friends for life. They even decided to get their first job together and have been working at “Bistro 1689” in Steenberg for the past year.

But Alessio and Phumi come from very different backgrounds.

Alessio’s mom, Lisa Ballerini is a business owner, while Phumi’s mom, Matilda Ntloko, is a domestic worker. Alessio lives in Lakeside, an urban area in Cape Town while Phumi lives in an informal settlement called Philippi, one of the larger townships in Cape Town, which is over half an hour away. Matilda’s employer paid for Phumi to go to both Junior and High School in the Southern Suburbs which is were the two friends met.

Even though their lives may seem very different, their friendship has taught them that above everything else they are South African and that bond can never be broken.

And it is that bond which caused Alessio to be so upset after receiving a disturbing call on Saturday the 8th of September to say that Phumi had been in a horrific attack and sustained multiple stab wounds.

Phumi was on his way home from work on Friday night when the attack happened. He was stabbed multiple times and had then been sent home from the hospital to recover. The doctors had told Matilda that he would be okay.

Alessio was heartbroken that his friend had endured such a horrible experience but still went off to work to cover his shift for the day. It only took a few short moments before Lisa received a text saying that he was coming home as he just couldn’t cope with the fact that Phumi had been attacked.

“He arrived back home with tears rolling down his face. We hugged and cried.”

Lisa contacted Phumi’s mom to find out exactly what had happened and they spent most of the call crying together. It was that exact moment when she realised that they had to go see Phumi, to make sure he was okay.

“I called Callum Ross, one of their other friends to let him know as well. I knew that I needed to take them to go see him. The only way they would feel better was if they all saw each other.”

The reality though is that even though they had all been friends for years, none of them had been to Phumi’s house and actually had no idea where it was.

Townships in South Africa have a reputation of being quite dangerous with gangs and violence but Lisa got the coordinates from Matilda and punched the details into her GPS immediately.

“Even though I was nervous driving into a township I had never been to, I knew that I had to do it. I knew that both Alessio and Callum would feel better after seeing him, but more so Phumi would heal quicker knowing that his friends cared so much.”

They arrived in Philippi and made their way to Matilda’s house. There they found Phumi with a massive smile on his face, delighted that his best friends had come to see him.

They spent the afternoon together, planning how they would make sure this never happened again.

On the way home, Lisa had a conversation with the two friends, pointing out how everyone was in a better space after seeing each other.

Callum commented how strange it was that moms always know and sometimes know better than we know ourselves.

“The whole situation was so incredibly emotional but what a stark reminder of how privileged we are. Our kids don’t have to take public transport late at night, they have medical aid looking after them and the reality is that if something like this had to happen, they definitely wouldn’t be sent straight home after being attacked and stabbed multiple times.

I also realised that when our kids get into their twenties, they become amazing again. All of them. As parents we just need to survive those teenage years.

Later on my son thanked me so much for going with them, he said I don’t think I’ve ever cried like that. But as a mom, I’m just glad I could be there for him to hold him and cry with him.

One of the biggest things for me in the whole thing was to see the incredible relationship that Alessio has with Phumi and how much they love each other. Thats what was so special. That’s the real South Africa!”

How a tragic attack is showing South Africa an amazing friendship

Sources: Good Things Guy interview
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Brent Lindeque is the founder and man in charge at Good Things Guy. Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

1 Comment

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    Danie Bezuidenhout

    September 14, 2018 at 10:34 am

    We had dinner at Steenberg a few days ago and I recognize Allesio who served us!

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