Anti-apartheid activist talks about how a young black man held her while his gang robbed her in Johannesburg, South Africa
Nadine Gordimer, the Nobel prize-winning author, told yesterday how a young black man held her while his gang tore off her wedding ring during a robbery at her house in Johannesburg.
The 82-year-old author and veteran of the anti-apartheid struggle was speaking after she had presented the Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience award to her friend, the former president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela.
Until now Gordimer had not commented on the incident, in which four unarmed young black men entered her home in the northern suburb of Parktown last Thursday.
According to the police, one of the men took Gordimer to a bedroom and demanded that she open the safe. She handed over cash but refused to part with her wedding ring.
Gordimer said: "All they wanted was money and my car keys. I don't have much jewellery but they tore off my wedding ring.
''One grabbed me. He had his arm across me. It was smooth and muscular and I thought 'shouldn't these hands and this arm be used in a trade rather than robbing an old woman?' He must have been between 18 and 22. My head was tucked under his chin and I could see his face and it was very smooth and that he was barely shaving."
The men locked Gordimer and her 66-year-old domestic worker in a store room and fled. The women were freed when a security company arrived, having been alerted earlier when the worker pressed a panic button.
Gordimer, whose novels include the 1974 Booker prize-winning The Conservationist, said the men's actions were "a symptom" of the problems the country faces, in particular huge unemployment. "These men should have something better to do than to rob two old ladies," she said.
Although she is revered in South Africa, Gordimer, who won the Nobel prize for literature in 1991, said she did not think her attackers knew who she was. In a country where many victims of robberies are stabbed, shot, tortured or raped, she escaped relatively unscathed.
While other wealthy residents of Johannesburg have moved to secured villages, Gordimer's friends are said to have long been concerned about her refusal to leave Parktown, which has suffered from its proximity to the crime-ridden city centre.
Nobel writer Nadine Gordimer, 82, attacked and robbed