Cape Town – The 72-year-old granny who fought off thieves with a ninja kick, and sprinted after them when they tried to take her handbag, was honoured by the Office of the Mayor of Cape Town on Wednesday for her courageousness.
The delegation visited Yvonne Viljoen’s quaint mountain-side home in St James to present her with a bunch of flowers and hear her tale over a cup of tea.
They had been planning to bring along city-sponsored cake and cookies, but with the request not logged soon enough for the “procurement process” to be followed, Viljoen graciously brought out some homemade rusks and welcomed them into the residence, filled with little keepsakes, art and family photos on display.
She had set the dining room table overlooking the verdant garden with china and serviettes that matched the orange on the walls. Two small dogs and a bird watched from the sidelines.
Classical music played in the background while she dusted off her china.
“I obviously need to have tea parties more often!” she remarked.
It was at a tea party many moons ago where she met her pilot husband. He died in 1994, at age 52, from terminal cancer.
Everyone in her 12-year-old granddaughter’s class has dubbed her “ninja granny” after her ordeal a month ago, and some people remarked that they wished it had been filmed so they could see it on YouTube.
‘I saw this nice chest in front of me’
Wilfred Solomons-Johannes, from the mayor’s office, told her the city valued its elderly and vulnerable residents.
“From the part of the mayor, we want to say that you are very courageous in taking on such youngsters who were determined to take your possessions and goods from you. The most important thing is that you are safe and unharmed.”
The delegation stood in a circle listening intensely as she recounted her tale.
“I saw this nice chest in front of me,” she said to laughter, before demonstrating how she landed a kick to the thief’s body, which momentarily knocked him off balance before he managed to snatch her handbag.
“I just couldn’t stand there and watch my bag disappear.”
When she caught up with the thieves at one point, she asked why they were committing crime when they were young, fit and healthy. She really wanted to know why they were doing such a thing when everyone was trying to make South Africa a better place.
The visit to Viljoen’s house was thanks to an email sent by Leonore Wildeman of the city’s housing division, who read her story on News24 and recommended that the mayor’s office do something special for her.
She told Viljoen on Wednesday that after reading the story, she thought: “Damn, but this woman is cheeky! Sjoe she has got spunk and she has put me to shame.”
Wildeman too has been at the receiving end of thugs days before Viljoen’s incident. She been walking home when three men, one bearing an iron rod, robbed her at the bridge near the Kuils River train station.
“I just said, take whatever you want because it is three guys. I was too scared because this is the second time this is happening to me,” she told ‘her hero’.
In a soothing voice, Viljoen told her that no one could ever know how they would react until they were in that situation.
They never laid a hand on her and she did not feel threatened at any stage by the soft-spoken, well-groomed, “gentle” thieves, Viljoen said.
Her two attackers, aged 21 and 18, were charged with attempted robbery since she ha got her handbag back. The older of the two – apparently a known criminal – admitted in court to snatching her bag and was subsequently sentenced to 36 months in jail.
The charge was withdrawn against his accomplice.
Showing a generous spirit, Viljoen said she hoped he would make better choices the next time.
Jenna Etheridge, News24