How many more lives?

The families of three young people shot and killed in Lavender Hill at the weekend received support from the community at a memorial service organised by community leaders.

Traumatised family and supportive community members crowded the streets of Lavender Hill at a memorial service held for three young people who were shot dead at the weekend.

Two men, aged 16 and 19 and a woman, 22, were shot dead wounded and a 30-year-old man was shot and wounded on the corner of St Bonniface and St Bazil streets in St Montague Village, Lavender Hill, on Saturday March 16, at 8.30pm.

The shootings happened a little more than a week after Minister of Police Bheki Cele hosted a ministerial imbizo in the area (“No military assistance in Lavender Hill”, Southern Mail, March 13).

Community leaders held the memorial service on Sunday March 17 to express their unhappiness with the regular shootings and killings between gangsters and drug lords.

Constable Wesley Twigg, spokesperson for Steenberg police, said: “The motive is possibly gang-related. The suspects fled the scene and are yet to be arrested.”

Steenberg SAPS station commander, Colonel Jan Alexander, expressed his concern and the need for closer co-operation between the police and the community: “The management acknowledge the pain sufferered by the relatives of the victims and deceased,and express our sincere condolences. These kind of incidents force the community to reach out to the police in respect of information and strategies to prevent this kind of incidents,” he said.

Community leader Ayesha Davids, of Village Heights, Lavender Hill, said she had “no words” to describe the way she felt after seeing the dead bodies of young people who grew up in her area.

“Never ever in my years as being a community leader have I experienced such pain and sadness for young people who grew up on the camp (informal settlement) and had to lose their lives at such a young age. Nizaam Abrahams, 19, and Keewan Petersen, 16, were cousins and Simone Fortune, 22, known as Mona, was a mother of two young daughters, aged four and one month.”

Ms Davids said. “I had to look at their dead bodies. I had to see the pain of the community and the pain of their families. Gavin Walbrugh, chairperson of Steenberg Community Police Forum and Lucinda Evans, head of the Mitchell’s Plain Cluster Community Police Forum (CPF), as well as members of the Rene Roman Search and Rescue Forum, initiated by Ms Evans after Rene Roman was killed by a neighbour, were my pillars of strength.”

Ms Davids despite the shootings of the past few weeks, there was no police visibility. “We haven’t seen any police officers patrolling. This justice system has failed us big time. Last week’s imbizo was just another political ploy because our community is still suffering.”

Ms Davids said her frustration stemmed from the police saying they don’t have manpower or vehicles. “What must we do – what more, how many lives must still be lost before they wake up?”

Mr Walbrugh said although the memorial service was called by community leaders because the killings were becoming unbearable, “parents should take responsibility for their children’s act-

He said: “The memorial service was heart-wrenching because they (the deceased) were innocent people who did not belong to gangs and the victims’ parents were traumatised. We are hearing about corrupt policemen, but the community should also come forward and give statements (if they know of corruption).”

Mothers, he said, were protecting their children and hiding illegal guns. “The time has come to unmask the shooters because some of the people know who they are. They must take the lead to report the shooters as their identities will be protected.”

Mr Walbrugh said too many young children were dying. He said on the morning of the memorial service, he was visiting the family of Ms Fortune and he had to call his partners to fetch him as there were shooting in the road.

When asked if the CPF would be keeping the children busy during the school holidays, he said, “Yes we will be going into the Lavender Hill courts, where we are planning to play games on Friday and Saturday night, around March 29. The children will be given an opportunity to stay up late and play games rather than get involved in drugs and gangsterism.”

Gangs operating in the Lavender Hill area and surrounds include the Funkys, the Mongrels, Flakka and Corner Boys and Mr Walbrug said there is a gang called Six Bobs from Ottery, that has recently started operating in the area.

Mr Walbrugh advised parents to make sure their children were supervised during the holidays.

Ms Evans also notified Southern Mail that she would be having a meeting with the parents of the shooting victims as well as the parents of the alleged gangsters, with the date to be confirmed after the funerals of the deceased.

Ms Davids said Nizaam’s janazaa was supposed to be held on Monday March 18.

Anyone with any information about these and other shootings is asked to contact Steenberg SAPS on 021 702 9000 or Crime Stop on 08600 10111.