Gang in-fighting, scavenging for drug turf and retaliations have been among the reasons for several fatal shootings in Lavender Hill, Steenberg and the surrounding areas and residents are calling for urgent intervention.
In the past few months, dozens of people have been wounded and fatally shot because of ongoing gang and drug turf wars in Lavender Hill that have spilt over to Steenberg, Cafda, Overcome Heights, Military Heights, Seawinds and other areas.
On Saturday March 10, at about 7.30pm, two people including 16-year-old Lavender Hill School pupil Courtney Jackson were shot in a drive-by shooting.
Courtney was killed. He was on his way to a tuck shop a few metres away from his home in Sonata Street, Steenberg.
His distraught mother, Melony van Nelson, has called for a stop to the gang violence in the area.
Steenberg police spokesperson, Warrant Officer John Bartlett, said on the same day police arrested the driver and passenger of the vehicle that had allegedly been involved in the drive-by shooting following a tip-off.
The suspects, aged 21 and 27, were driving the vehicle down Military Road into Grindal Avenue, Lavender Hill
The vehicle had been stolen in Muizenberg in March.
A memorial service was held for Courtney at Lavender Hill High School on Monday March 12 where staff and pupils made emotional tributes.
Courtney’s teacher, Malcolm Philand, said he initially had doubt about Courtney and kept a close eye on him.
“I did not want to accept him at the school at first. After enrolling him I got to know him better and realised that he was a good boy. He had his moments and was naughty at times but he was never rude, was soft spoken and was very helpful. I have been teaching at the school for 27 years and it is sad when one of our pupils die this way. The gang violence needs to stop. We need more police presence and more intervention from government,” said Mr Philand.
Community worker Aysha Davids said dozens of people have been shot over the past few months and nothing is being done to stop the bloodshed.
“The community is fed up with all the gang shootings and the lack of service from police and government. There is not a station commander that comes out, or any government officials. Absolutely nothing is being done and people and innocent children are being shot daily. Children especially are traumatised because the gunshots go off like machine guns. I think the top structures of police think this is a joke. Why is the army not brought in? One day the shooters are in jail and the next day they’re out on bail doing exactly the same thing,” said Ms Davids.
Rehemah Carelse, a community worker who worked closely with Courtney as part of a youth programme, said he died a hero.
“When the gunshots rang out I thought of the children playing in front of my house. A few seconds later Courtney came running in my house with one of the young girls (aged 6) who was playing outside.”
“When he came in we didn’t know he was shot. It was only when he collapsed in a pool of blood that we realised he was seriously injured,” said Ms Carelse.
A neighbour took both the boys who were shot to the day hospital where Courtney died.
“He was a good boy. He always listened and tried to help and he died a hero because he saved that girl’s life. That is how I knew Courtney and that is how we will always remember him,” said Ms Carelse.
Ms Van Nelson said her son did not deserve to die in such a brutal way.
“He was a very good boy. He had his ups and downs and backchatted from time to time but that is expected from a teenager. He did housework and anything I asked of him. He did not deserve to die like that and he was not a gangster and he had no intention of becoming a gangster,” said Ms Van Nelson.
Courtney left Sibelius High School last year and was at home for six months but begged his mother to find another school for him to attend.
“He told me he didn’t want to sit at home anymore. That’s when I asked Lavender Hill to enrol him and he started Grade 9 there in January,”said Ms Van Nelson.
On the day of the shooting, Ms Nelson was viewing houses because she wanted to move her family away from the area.
“Courtney did not want to continue living in this area. On the day my son died I was viewing two houses because I wanted to move my family to a safer area and because Courtney always wanted his own room. He was desperate to get out of the community. He knew he did not want to become a gangster. I was in the process of getting out,” she said.
Ms Van Nelson said she will miss her son and will forever remember his heroic act before his death.
“Seeing my son laying in his own blood with massive gunshot wounds was the worst feeling but as I saw my son lying there I asked God to forgive whoever did it. I also asked God to not let them go unpunished. That very same night the driver and someone else was caught,” she said.
“It must stop. The gang shootings must stop. The drug selling must stop because it is because of the drugs that these shootings take place and innocent children die. The community needs to stand together and bring an end to this unjustness,” said Ms Van Nelson.
Courtney’s stepfather Walter van Nelson, who raised Courtney since he was two years old, said the gangsters who shot his son went on a rampage and shot other people on the same evening.
“It is ridiculous that gangsters can go around and shoot at anyone. The people gangsters are targeting are not getting hurt instead they are shooting innocent children. Those responsible must get life imprisonment because they are harassing our communities. Children can’t even play outside anymore because they are too scared. The gang shootings have to stop,” said Mr Van Nelson.
Gavin Walbrugh, chairperson of the Steenberg Community Policing Forum (CPF), said the flare-up of violence is worrying and is strongly condemned by the CPF.
Mr Walbrugh said police have increased patrols in the areas affected and the result is that more drive-by shootings have been occurring.
“Because there is so much police visibility gangsters are reverting to drive-by shootings and this is dangerous because innocent people are much more likely to get hurt instead of intended targets. We appeal to the community to help the police with information that could lead to arrests. Unfortunately, we have residents who protect these gangsters and that is a problem faced by police,” said Mr Walbrugh.
Steenberg station commander Colonel Jan Alexander confirmed that there have been numerous shootings in the area as a result of drug turf war, in-fighting and revenge attacks between gangs.
“We implore the community to help us with information with regards to any gang activity. We are, however, reinforcing and tripling our efforts with the help of provincial police to act operationally. We have come out in full force in response to the gang violence and will make every effort to maintain a safe and secure environment,” said Colonel Alexander.