Neither Ford nor its CEO, Jeff Nemeth, once apologised to the family of Reshall Jimmy after he burnt to death in his Ford Kuga in December 2015.
Instead, they offered the family a brand new Ford. Jimmy’s sister, Renisha, said not only did Nemeth insult them with the offer of a new vehicle, “he also played the religion factor [with her], making it seem that he was trying to redeem himself”.
“He went to the extent to say that he feels Reshall is haunting him and that he feels very attached and close to Reshall and he needs to give us closure and that I do not know how this matter has affected him and the impact it had on him and his life,” she said.
“He said his family has been affected and his kids had to be taken off social media and he really wants us to come to some sort of solution to move forward. He really made me sort of believe that he is trying to redeem himself, speaking a lot about God.”
Renisha said Nemeth promised that he would settle the matter before he moved back to Detroit in the US in about a week’s time.
“I honestly felt that because of him and involving God … that Jeff Nemeth and Ford are finally now accepting their roles and redeeming themselves of everything that happened,” she said.
However, when he finally met her with her mother Polly in the presence of Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba, a close friend of Nemeth, he instead offered them a new car to the value of R1 million and said they would pay off the claims of Jimmy’s Kuga that was burnt.
“And then he told my mom that Reshall was shot in the head,” said Renisha. She said her mother had a breakdown after the meeting and had to be medicated.
“He did not once apologise or say sorry or that Ford is sorry.
“I thought it was so disrespectful to my family. Sort of a slap on both sides of our faces. Sitting there, it felt like, how dare you offer us a vehicle, the brand that my brother’s life was lost in? Reshall burnt to death and, picking up bits and pieces from the autopsy, I am sure you understand the magnitude of how badly he was burnt,” Renisha said in disbelief.
“If his skull fractured and his elbows burst, that tells you how bad the extent of that fire was. How dare you offer us a vehicle and think we’re going to be happy? No. I sat there in tears and the tears rolled down my face and I looked at him and said to him, ‘You told me we are coming here and you are going to give us closure,’” an emotional Renisha said
The Jimmy family attorney, Rod Montano, said if Ford was not forthcoming, the law provided for compensation that would be sufficient.
He said the Directorate for Public Prosecutions had done an inquest but had been sitting on the docket for the past three months.