Gru attack: ‘I forgive… but can’t forget’

Henry

She was repeatedly stabbed in the head with sheep shears. Her arm was cut with a bottle. And it took Ronelle Coetzee (67), formerly of Kareedouw in the Eastern Cape, more than a year to heal from the wounds left by her attackers.

Yet the emotional scars still lie shallow; it is raw and painful.

This was Coetzee’s testimony in the Kareedouw Regional Court where her attackers, Emanuel November (33) and Ivan Draai (34), pleaded guilty.

“I forgive them, because otherwise I cannot get well. But I can’t forget. I testified to it in court,” Coetzee said by telephone from the Cape.

Her emotions come through when she talks about her life before the attack.

“Some days it feels like I’m going to lose my mind. There is still a long process ahead of me. I can’t smell anymore, I’m getting dizzy and I’m scared. In the early afternoon though I draw my curtains and just stay in the house.

“I’m afraid to drive somewhere and come back… I got scared and thought someone was waiting for me.”

Coetzee was attacked on 27 November 2022 in her garage at her home in the town by Draai, her gardener.

The events that followed, she unraveled over time with the help of others. She woke up hours after the attack, heavily bandaged, in Knysna Hospital. Coetzee was transferred from Kareedouw and had to undergo a four-hour operation to attach the wounds to her arms and skull. Today, she still does not have proper use in her right hand and her skull has not reattached properly either.

Ronelle Coetzee, Kareedouw, Eastern Cape, attack, sentence, crime, Ivan Draai, Emmanuel November, SAPS

The last thing Coetzee remembers was that on that Saturday she went to town to drink coffee with two friends, as is customary. She came home just after 12:00 and asked Draai to help her with the flowers she got for the next day’s church bouquets.

“He opened the garage door for me, as he always does. I got out and also asked him why his mobile phone and jacket were lying on the ground; I almost hit it.”

Draai walked behind her and she remembers the hard blow when a blow hit her behind the ear.

Neighbors heard her cries of distress and called the neighborhood watch. “I didn’t even know I fought back or shouted,” says Coetzee.

Members of the village guard found Coetzee in the trunk of her car, where Draai and November let her in and were still stabbing her in the head and face with sheep shears. Around her neck was a rope with which she was strangled.

Coetzee remembers nothing of this, nor that she herself walked unsteadily outside with the help of the village watch members.

“All my neighbor remembers is how I walked out of the garage. My hair was full of blood and my two eyes were black.”

Capt. Marius McCarthy, Eastern Cape police spokesperson, confirmed when asked that November was arrested five days after the attack. He was linked to the crime scene by blood and fingerprints. The investigation team also found a lot of Coetzee’s stolen jewels in his possession.

Draai was arrested a month later.

Ronelle Coetzee, Kareedouw, Eastern Cape, attack, sentence, crime, Ivan Draai, Emmanuel November, SAPS

Coetzee was full of praise for the investigation team which consisted of ao. Bernard Meyer, Sgt. Rudi Swanepoel, ao. Jacques le Roux and ao. Gerhard Henning who led to the successful sentencing of the two attackers.

November and Draai pleaded guilty to a charge of burglary, aggravated robbery and kidnapping. They were sentenced to five, 15 and five years in prison respectively. The court also ordered that the sentences should not be served concurrently.

Coetzee, a wedding planner, moved after the attack and now lives in the Cape.

“They attacked me, from a community that I loved and cared about. The trauma on the town was terrible; something like this has never happened on Kareedouw.”

That’s why she decided to move closer to her children and instead focus on her health.

“I can’t thank the police enough. They acted so quickly. Which woman would have been next? I am grateful that they (Draai and November) have been removed from the community and we are now safe again.”