Goodbye Jeremy Gordin

James Myburgh on a bright light extinguished by yet another senseless murder

Dear Reader,

As you may have heard or read by now Jeremy Gordin was murdered in his home in Parkview, Johannesburg, on early Saturday morning. The house was ransacked, and his car and other items taken. He was alone at home, as his wife Deborah was in Cape Town at the time.

Jeremy first started writing for Politicsweb in 2009, two years after the publication’s founding, and contributed columns and articles regularly since then, including through his time at the Wits Justice Project where he fought for the release of Fusi Mofokeng and Tshokolo Mokoena. His only sustained sabbatical was during the period he went off to run the Daily Sun newspaper. Since 2020 he was back to writing a regular weekly Thursday column for us.

These articles and columns over the years speak for themselves. Throughout the existence of Politicsweb as an independent publication, and through some very trying times, Jeremy was also always a rock of moral support.

He was a great intellectual companion when it came to researching some of the great unsolved mysteries of our history, and a committed fellow of the Society for the Pursuit of the World’s Most Unpopular Causes.

Our latest campaign, as discussed on Thursday evening after he had filed his column, was to be in defence of the honour and good name of the long-besieged residents of the Johannesburg Northern suburbs. By Saturday morning he was dead. 

For many years Jeremy had a white bull terrier called Olsen, to whom he was utterly devoted, and who was equally devoted to him. Olsen also happened to be the scariest dog I have ever met. Olsen had fought a years’ long battle against cancer but eventually had to be put down in May 2022, to Jeremy’s great distress.

Jeremy was recently also becoming increasingly despondent over the general decay and collapse that he was witnessing around him. In a column in October last year, written as a letter to his two children, he sought to explain “why I’m feeling so blue today; why, at the risk of being theatrical, the lines ‘It’s gettin’ dark, too dark for me to see,’ from Bob Dylan’s ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’, came into my head.

In his conclusion, he appealed to them to consider leaving South Africa, as “there comes a time when things are clearly falling apart and there comes a time when the general moronicism, greed and lack of care grow really annoying. It becomes as though “It’s gettin’ dark, too dark see.” And you, who have your whole lives before you (as they say), need to consider seriously going to live elsewhere. We’ve been doing it for centuries, after all.”

Then in early November last year the outbuildings of his house in Parkview were burgled, after he had left the wooden door to the road open. As he wrote at the time the thieves didn’t leave with anything of much value except for one precious piece of information.

They must have noticed that our dear bullterrier Olsen left some months ago for the Big Kennel in the Sky; previously he slept in the room nearest to the garden (the kitchen), where he could be clearly seen, and, though deaf, he managed to spread fear far and wide courtesy of his fun-loving looks.

The thieves, or those they had passed on this information to, returned to the property a week later between 2am and 3am, and this time expertly broke into the main house itself, and quietly pillaged the kitchen of food, booze and utensils, which they carted off in Woolworths’ shopping bags.

Deborah realised what had happened when she went for a smoke in the kitchen at 3am, the local security company was called and responded quickly, the burglars were spotted making off with the loot, and unsuccessfully chased (though they dropped the bags as they ran off.) The police rocked up some time after to take a statement, but with no great apparent desire to investigate and brink the culprits to book.

All things considered, Jeremy wrote, this episode ended pretty well. He continued:

But that’s always (so to speak) our lowest common (SA) denominator, isn’t it? “Oh,” we always say, “at least no one was hurt, at least there’s that.”

Does one have to live like this? …Why can’t a 70-year-old codger forget about locking his door, without having to have his property invaded? Why can’t his gorgeous wife go for a smoke in the early hours of the morning without having to worry about who might be in her kitchen? What does this tell us about the state of SA?

How about the police – and what’s happened to them in this country? Odd, isn’t it, that in South Africa their demise and uselessness is now regarded as so normal as not to need comment. But I’d say the collapse of policing has been even more “complete” than the collapse of Eskom, about which we talk all the time.

It’s all a pathetic tragedy. Why were these guys stealing mainly food? Because they and theirs are pretty damn hungry – and we know why they are.

Worst of all, though, is that these kinds of situations are the sorts of ones that do push generally decent humans into eventually not giving a damn about the “idea” of taking another’s life over the theft of food or some clothing. And I resent that bitterly.”

Goodbye Jeremy Gordin. Say hallo to Olsen. You will be so missed.