A day after his victory at the Johannesburg High Court against the South African Police Services (SAPS) we speak to Khuli Chana about his mammoth David and Goliath battle.
It’s been more than a two year journey for rapper Khuli Chana. In October 2013 he was shot at by police officials using an automatic rifle in a case of mistaken identity.
Chana was charged with attempted murder after police insisted that they had footage showing him trying to ‘drive over cops.’ (They never did produce that ‘footage.’) Then the police agreed on a settlement‚ rumoured to be more than R2m‚ only to later renege on this.
The musician laid a civil claim against the SAPS and on Wednesday a settlement was reached.
“I thought I wasn’t going to win. I was going up against the system. This was me‚ a musician‚ facing-off against the police. It changed my life.”
Chana is in Durban ahead of the SAMAs. He’s nominated for Best Collaboration for his single‚ No Lie‚ featuring Nigerian hottie Patoranking. He has just finished rehearsals and his voice alone tells you that a weight has been lifted off his shoulders.
“It changed my life. It changed me. I wasn’t the same person. It distracted my from my plan of being this guy who put out hits to now going to court to fight for justice. There was a lot of fear. And anxiety.”
He’s referring to anxiety over the case and facing an organisation that back-pedalled on deals and even threw in those attempted murder charges. And‚of course‚ the fear of the incident happening again.
“Because take a second to imagine this: you’re driving to meet your friend at a petrol station. You know‚ minding your own business‚ and suddenly the cops are firing at you and chasing you down.”
Their reason? They thought he was a kidnapper.
The attempted murder charges were dropped‚ obvs‚ because there was no footage. No proof. Nada.
As Chana tried to gain control of his life‚ he turned to what he knows best: music.
“It was my therapy. I went back and wanted to move on. But I was masking it. The story‚ the case‚ everything just took control of my life. Eventually my manager came to me and said ‘Yo‚ you need to see a therapist. You aren’t the same person.’ I became a loner and as time went on I just started withdrawing more and more.”
At the time‚ Chana explains that he was on the cusp of signing a big deal and realise his dream of ‘making it.’
It was the ordinary folk who helped him change his mind. It was you‚ who has also encountered the beast of the SAPS‚ who has also faced injustice‚ who also felt lost‚ you made him fight on.
“I have a great legal team. They guided me through this process. Some of the stories I have heard are just painful. Just disheartening. I did this for those who can’t. I have given a voice to the hopeless. Carry on fighting. Speak up.”
While he has won the war his daily battle still continues. Chana says that every now and then the shooting pops up into his mind and just two weeks ago he went to see his therapist.
“It’s shit man. My life became lifeless. I saw my therapist and he said I need to come back. This will never go away‚ but you find ways to deal with it.”
also working on a documentary about the ordeal‚ Picking up the Pieces‚ which he says hopes will help others find their voice.
Of course‚ the topic of how much the settlement was can’t be avoided. We’re told before the interview that the exact amount won’t be revealed and Chana pokes fun at the situation.
“Every time you post a picture of an expensive watch people are going to say the SAPS are your blessers‚” we say.
“That’s the sad thing. I’m in a better place and you’re right‚ people will say I’m about to be a blesser. But this truly wasn’t about the money. This was about justice. This was about what is right is right and they were wrong.”
At the end of the day‚ what does he now know (Yup‚ we stole that Oprah question) He hesitates. He stops laughing and with a serious tone says: “There are good people in this world. And there are very very bad people. And then there is God.”