A day to celebrate not being dead

David Bullard writes on the 15th anniversary of the failed attempt to kill him


This week marks the 15th anniversary of the day somebody tried to kill me. Every year at about this time I celebrate not being dead. This may sound rather morbidly self indulgent to those of you who have not yet experienced an attempt on your life but it’s quite a good way to remind oneself of the fragility of life. Particularly in light of what is happening in Ukraine at the moment.

At just after 7pm on March 7th 2007 three well dressed gentlemen appeared in the doorway leading from the bedroom area to the open plan kitchen and living area having gained access through an open bedroom window.

The phone had stopped working the previous day and we’d asked Telkom to attend to the matter. For a brief moment I thought this was the Telkom round the clock repair team that my wife had let in to the house without me noticing but then I remembered that Telkom repair teams don’t carry guns.

I was sitting on a sofa enjoying a glass or two of Ken Forrester’s Grenache at the time and my wife had just returned from yoga. This being South Africa we quickly put two and two together and realised that we were about to become another Johannesburg crime statistic.

The leader of the well-dressed gentlemen demanded to know where we kept the safe and wanted our guns and all the money we had stashed in the safe.

At this point I thought it might be a good idea to make for the front door and hit the emergency button on the alarm system. A loud siren started to wail and within a few minutes the phone rang which was presumably the security company asking whether it was a genuine emergency or whether we had triggered the alarm accidentally.

Obviously, I wasn’t able to answer it and the leader of the well dressed house invaders didn’t have the savvy to lift the phone and say “All OK here thanks. The dog set the alarm off”.

So there we were, alarm blaring and Chubb armed response on their way and this didn’t go down at all well with the three well-dressed house invaders. The shortest of the three accosted me by the front door and started waving a revolver around my head. My wife, meanwhile, had remained very calm despite warnings that if she screamed they would kill her husband and was led to the bedroom where the safe was.

Shorty with the gun decided that I wasn’t showing the deference he felt due to him (I was using some rather non PC language I’m afraid) and decided to pull the trigger. Fortunately I dropped my left arm just in time and the 9mm slug passed though my lower arm and into my abdomen where it managed to avoid all major organs and embed itself in my pelvis just to the left of my spine where it remains to this day. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

Meanwhile Mrs B was being asked for the key to the safe (which they would have found disappointingly devoid of weapons and large wads of cash) to which she quickly responded that only her husband knew where the key was but since you’ve just shot him I don’t think you’re going to find him in a very helpful mood.

Around that point the armed response arrived, and our three well-dressed house invaders decided to make a run for it through the bedroom windows with their spoils. This amounted to two cellphones which they chucked away when the third attempt to guess the pin code hadn’t worked, credit cards which were all cancelled within the hour, personal documents like driving licenses and ID books and R800 in cash. Not perhaps their best night’s work.

The blood spatters would have done a Quentin Tarantino movie proud. I had been holding a hastily grabbed towel over my abdomen in the style of all good cowboy movies but the blood had actually been pumping out of my arm wound while the stomach wound was just a messy hole.

With the house invaders gone a sort of calmness returned and I decided to walk down our pan-handle driveway in Parktown North and wait for the ambulance which was on its way. It was a wet night and I remember sitting very calmly by the road in 7th Avenue in the pouring rain and greeting passers by who probably thought I was a drunk collapsed on the pavement.

The ambulance arrived along with some police reservists and paramedics from the excellent Parkview police station and soon I was on my way to Milpark Hospital for the next exciting episode. It was only after my wounds had been attended to and I was in my bed in ICU, wired up to all sorts of things, that the true horror of what had happened finally dawned on me and I became a sobbing wreck. Up until that point I had been on some sort of adrenalin high.

I can only imagine that something similar is happening in Ukraine at the moment. In the early stages of the Russian invasion spirits were high and there was a confident defiance amongst Ukrainians. However, after ten days of civilian bombing, destruction of infrastructure and with around one and a half million refugees streaming across the borders in search of a safe refuge the mood is changing and a growing sense of hopelessness is becoming evident.

Apart from being bitterly cold (a high of 2 degrees C) how can anyone possibly survive in a place like Mariupol where there is no power, no water, no sanitation and where food stocks are running dangerously low? That’s in addition to the constant threat of bombardment from the Russian military. Even attempts to evacuate citizens during a ceasefire have been thwarted with the Russians unconvincingly blaming the Ukrainian forces for breaking the ceasefire.

The trapped residents of Mariupol are surrounded by burning buildings and news channels report dead bodies lying in the streets with nobody able to attend to them. This is truly a vision of hell and pretty obviously Putin has a similar plan in mind for Kyiv.

The sheer scale of the humanitarian crisis is yet to be seen. The population of Ukraine is around 44 million and with only 1.5 million across the border so far that leaves many more millions facing the choice of an escape with whatever they can carry to an uncertain future in an unfamiliar country or sitting it out and hoping for the best. The TV footage of desperate mothers with their young children clutching their favourite toy or the family pet and dragging tiny suitcases on wheels should have moved the hardest of hearts.

But not apparently in South Africa where we shamefully abstained from condemning Putin’s actions in the UN vote much to the horror of many SA citizens and the Ukrainian ambassador.

What is it about our government? Are they getting a kick out of seeing white people being bombed to oblivion and becoming refugees? Are they getting a bit edgy about the West clamping down on political kleptocrats and freezing bank accounts and seizing assets? (They damn well should be). Or is it just a commie thing?

When you’ve been playing in the sandpit of long dead ideology for so long and still like to run around calling one another ‘Comrade’ you’re almost certainly not playing with a full deck. So I suppose it’s quite natural that you would support the discredited international commie club and ignore all manner of human suffering in the interests of self preservation. Let’s hope the West doesn’t take those abstentions as tacit support for Russia and introduce sanctions on the countries that abstained.


I can’t remember a time when banking was so expensive. I admit that I was a late convert to online banking preferring to use my chequebook and pay SARS twice a year. When SARS decided that a bank guaranteed cheque was no longer acceptable I was forced into online banking. My fear is that if we ever lose internet connectivity we are royally stuffed but that seems to be regarded as an irrational geriatric nervous condition.

Anyway, I logged onto my banking app on my laptop and couldn’t get into my account because the system had been upgraded. So much so that it didn’t talk to my ancient MacBook Pro that produces this column every week.

Simple solution if you want to continue online banking and pay any accounts due – spend upwards of R15 000 on a new laptop. I think I prefer the days of monthly bank charges. O tempores, O mores.