KWAZULU NATAL, South Africa – Arvitha Doodnath was passionate about fighting for justice.
She grew up in a family of law enforcement officers (her father and uncles were policemen) who encouraged her to fight for the rights of people, especially the downtrodden.
On Saturday night, after attending an Indian folk dance at the Swaminaryan Temple in Mayfair, Johannesburg, the 30-year-old was shot in the chest during an alleged attempted hijacking.
Her killer or killers are still free.
Doodnath, of Randburg, was travelling in a Ford Figo on Jan Smuts Avenue and Upper Park Drive in Parktown when a gunman opened fire on her car. Six bullets struck the vehicle and one pierced her chest.
The former Queensburgh, Durban, resident called a devotee at the temple for help, before she succumbed to her injuries.
The gunman fled without taking any of her valuables.
Friends, family and colleagues posted tributes and messages of condolence on Facebook.
Doodnath’s relative and family spokesperson, Tashya Giyapersad, said the family wanted answers on what had happened. They were determined to ensure justice was done.
Giyapersad said Doodnath’s father, Ajith, a warrant officer at Durban Central police station, mother Geetha and sister Amitha, an actuarial science student, were struggling to come to terms with her death.
Giyapersad confirmed Doodnath had worked on several high-profile cases dealing with government institutions and hospitals, but denied that Doodnath was the victim of a hit.
“We believe her death was a foiled hijacking. It was not a hit. However, that person killed a policeman’s daughter and the family will do everything to get justice.”
According to Giyapersad, Doodnath grew up in the extended family home in Queensburgh. The home was shared by her father and his three brothers, all who were policemen.
Giyapersad said Doodnath was inspired by her father and her uncles and wanted to do her bit to uphold justice.
She matriculated at Queensburgh High School and graduated with a law degree from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. She later specialised in medical law at the same institution.
She served her articles at J Leslie Smith and Company Incorporated in Pietermaritzburg from 2012 to 2014.
Thereafter, she moved to Johannesburg where she joined the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF). There she gained experience in policy work and constitutional litigation.
Doodnath joined the Vaal University of Technology as a lecturer in the law department. In March 2016, she opened her law practice, Doodnath & Associates, in Johannesburg.
Giyapersad said Doodnath was invited by news channels on an ad hoc basis to comment on legal matters.
One of the most recent topics she discussed was the proposed National Health Insurance. At the time of her death, she was studying towards her PhD in law at UKZN.
Dr Vishal Surbun, a law professor at UKZN, described Doodnath as “a competent and diligent student” when she studied toward her law degree.
He said she tutored first-year students and regularly attended Friday satsangs at the UKZN Hindu Students Association.
Minority Front leader Shameen Thakur-Rajbansi said she met Doodnath during a prayer vigil at her home in Chatsworth.
“She was graceful and articulate. I spoke to her on many occasions about her studies and recall her interest in cryogenics (the production and behaviour of materials at very low temperatures) and her focus on the medico-legal ethics dilemmas.”
Doodnath’s friend, Caylee Dempsey, posted a tribute on Facebook.
“I know they say the good die young. However, where does that leave the world? Where are we without the people that stand for something? I hope, with all my heart, that your soul finds peace knowing that there are others out there that can fight the same battle.”
Francis Antonie, the director of the HSF, said they would remember Doodnath for her unyielding passion for justice.
“She lived her life with fierce determination, compassion and joy. It is devastating that her life was taken from her in the manner that it was.”
Melinda Brussow, from the National Hijack Prevention Academy, said Ford Figos were normally not high-risk vehicles.
“The victim was shot at six times and none of her valuables were taken. This could possibly mean the hijacker was inexperienced and panicked.”
Gauteng police spokesperson Captain Mavelo Masondo said a case of murder was being investigated and no arrests had been made.
Doodnath was cremated at the Clare Estate Crematorium in Durban on Monday.