His goal after that simply was to make South Africa's Olympic team. Since he had not finished in New York, a major South African qualifying race, he had only one chance: He had to win the South African championship. The three-man Olympic marathon team already was set. A substitution could be made only if someone not on the team won the South African title. Thugwane was the someone. His time was 2:11:46. "There was no choice," he says. "I had to finish first. Or nothing."
Everything seemed perfect. His wife had given birth to their second daughter, Thandiwe. He was back at the mines. He had spent some money to buy the bakkie, which he could use to bring supplies to his shebeen. He was going to the Olympics. He was flourishing. Two weeks after he qualified for the Games he was driving the bakkie, looking to purchase some cows to finish off the payment of his lobola, the bridal fee that a Ndebele man must eventually surrender to the parents of his bride. The fee was eight cows and 1,000 rand. He stopped to pick up the hitchhikers.
"I went to the police, not the hospital," he says, describing what happened after he was shot. "They didn't do anything. I told them who had done this, because I recognized one of the three men. They still didn't do anything. How can this be? We found the bakkie on the other side of the township. It had run out of gas. Witnesses told the police who had left it there. The police said this part of the township was beyond their jurisdiction. They did nothing."
He believes the entire grim business was about beer and success. Before he got the bakkie Thugwane had bought his beer from the owner of a township liquor store, a local businessman who could deliver the beer to Thugwane's shebeen. Once Thugwane had the bakkie he could buy his supplies from the distributor himself for a lower price and make a larger profit. The liquor-store owner was not pleased. Not with the beer. Not with Thugwane's success. Perhaps there were others, jealous of his fortune, waiting for their chance.
"I was scared," Thugwane says. "Threats were brought to me after the incident. I was told that I would be killed. This is a place where threats are serious. I was scared for my family. I did not want to leave them alone, but what could I do? I could only trust in God."
The trip to the Olympics did not seem as inviting as it once had.
"Josia was not the only one who was scared," South African marathoner Lawrence Peu says. "We all were scared. We all had families back home. We were gone, and it was public knowledge. Anyone could come to our houses and do anything. It was very easy for them."
There were four black runners and a white coach-manager, Jacques Malan, in the marathon team's three-bedroom apartment on Eubank Avenue in Albuquerque. They were all together for two months of training at altitude to prepare for Atlanta. They ate together, slept together, ran together, worried together.
The violence they left behind could not be forgotten. The oft-stated statistic is that Johannesburg's murder rate is four to five times higher than New York's. Razor wire or electric fences encircle homes everywhere in South Africa. The weapons stockpiled by liberation fighters have been sold, many to criminals. The fastest-rising crime in South Africa is carjacking. Everyone seems to have a story.