MANY of you will be asking: Who’s Janet? Janet is the woman who, with Emerald Van Zyl, have fought the Saambou/ FNB discrimination case for the past seventeen years. She stood by his side, not only emotionally and spiritually, but physically, they re-calculated the thousands of bank statements of Saambou/FNB clients who were charged inflated interest rates – for nothing else, the two contend – but the colour of their skin.
I had wanted to write a tribute to her while she was alive but just didnt know how I would end the piece. I just didnt know how I could write an ending about someone whose end seemed so close. Doctors had given her two months to live when she was diagnosed with lung cancer in January but she had managed to hang-on until last week Thursday. I had hoped she would make it to August if not longer.
It had started with a little cough towards the end of last year and by January, a doctor diagnosed her with lung cancer. By then, she had lost her one lung and had very little left of the other. She was admitted in frail care and lived off an oxygen pump.
This is a woman who had been with Emerald for twenty-five years and theirs was a life of love and laughter. Every time I spoke to Emerald, the conversation would not end without him saying something about Janet – in the most loving and caring way. On rare occasions when I spoke to Janet, we would all laugh despite the gruelling sacrifices they’ve had to endure as a result of this case. Taking on a financial institution with deep pockets has been hard on them, personally and financially, and unlike most spouses who would turn their backs when the going gets tough, Janet was always there. Emerald would always tell me that in their twenty-five year partnership, they had never quarrelled.
About a week ago, when I told Emerald that I had to do some washing, he told me he too was in trouble now because Janet is not there. “I’m having to learn how to use a washing machine. I’m lost without her,” he said. I still mocked him and said it would teach him to learn everything for when she came out of care. We laughed.
The FNB Equality Court case is scheduled to be heard in the Western Cape in August and what a travesty of justice that she will not be there to hear and see it through. The last time around when the case was heard, Emerald was in hospital and wasnt able to attend court proceedings.
We salute Janet. May her soul rest in peace.