Casualties of war

Aqueel Davids, 9, was shot and killed by a stray bullet in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Ongoing gang-related violence in Ocean View reached boiling point during the past week when it claimed the lives of a 9-year-old boy on Saturday September 9 and a 26-year-old-man on Monday September 11.

On Saturday, a stray bullet from warring gangsters shattered the lives of the Davids family, fatally wounding Aqueel Davids, 9, and leaving three others wounded.

The Grade 3 Kleinberg Primary School pupil was rushed to hospital where he was declared brain-dead, leaving his parents with the unthinkable task of switching off his life support.

The circumstances around his death reads like the script of a movie except at the end, his family does not get to switch off the television and go to bed. Instead they are left with the horrific image of him lying motionless in their living room with a head wound.

However, the circumstances around the Watsonia Road shooting which claimed the life of Kiyaam Esau, 26, remain vague with provincial police spokesman, Constable Zak Marais, only saying he was shot in the chest and stomach shortly before 8pm. It is unclear if the two incidents are related and a case of murder is being investigated.

Speaking to the Echo via telephone on Monday, Aqueel’s paternal grandmother, Chanaaz Davids said at the time of the shooting her sons Sedick Davids, 35, Ishmaeel Davids, 26, and her daughter, Mieshka Davids-Williams, 28, were at her Nebula Way home preparing for her wedding the next day.

She said she was not home during the shootout but according to her daughter, a young unknown man ran into the house, through the kitchen door, in what seemed like an attempt to hide from someone.

They managed to push the kitchen door closed when shot were fired into it and the perpetrator/s moved to the front of the house.

Before they knew it, bullets were raining through the front window of the house, fatally wounding Aqueel and hitting Ishmaeel and the unknown man.

One of the bullets ricocheted and hit Mieshka in the chest.

Ms Davids, who is the chairman of Lighthouse Fishing Forum, a NPO that assists small-scale fishermen in the community, said she was then called by her daughter who told her she had to come home as there had been a shooting and Aqueel had been taken to hospital.

She said the sound of gunfire in Ocean View is nothing out of the ordinary and she thought it must have been a random shooting.”I rushed to the hospital not knowing how bad it was and found my grandson dead,” she said.

Her son Ishmaeel was wounded in the arm. His arm was broken in three places and doctors told her that they will have to operate to insert metal plates and do skin grafts and her daughter Mieshka had a wound on her chest where the bullet grazed her.

She said the family was devastated and instead of celebrating her wedding on Saturday, the family mourned the loss of a young innocent life, burying Aqueel later that afternoon according to Muslim rites.

“I am an angry mother, grandmother and community member and I feel that the the police have failed this community. We have been let down by the police,” she said.

She added that after the shooting, her daughter was home alone in a house covered in blood and bullet holes and she was in shock.

When police officers arrived at the scene she pleaded with them to stay with her until the rest of the family returned, as she was terrified, but they refused, saying they had another case to attend to.

Ocean View resident and friend of Aqueel’s father, Adin Adams, described Aqueel as a free-spirited boy who loved life and the outdoors. “I had the honour of painting a mural with him and we went hiking in the mountains a while ago. I can’t believe he is gone,” Mr Adams said.

Ward councillor, Simon Liell-Cock said violence was an everyday occurrence in Ocean View. “The vast majority of Ocean View residents are good, law-abiding citizens and they are being held ransom in their own community by gangsters. They deserve better,” he said.

He said the community had lost faith in the police and as a result crimes are not being reported which means crime statistics are incorrect and not enough police officers are assigned to Ocean View.

Community members expressed their shock and anger on the Ocean View/Slangkop Facebook page, saying enough is enough.

In the past year alone, the community has been hit hard with the deaths of 6-month-old Zahnia Woodward who was killed in a drive-by shooting in December last year <<>>, the brutal murder of two men, Tony Hartzenberg, 31, and Shagun O’Malley, 32 who were shot in the head several times, (“Shootings continue in Ocean View”, Echo, April 2017), the murder of Cameron Britz whose mutilated body was found in the bushes along Slangkop Road near the Ocean View police station on July 2, (“Ocean View talks about trauma”, Echo, July 6 2017) and now Aqueel and Kiyaam.

Ocean View Community Police Forum chair, Kathy Cronje, said there appeared to be no end to the ongoing violence in the community. She said Ocean View definitely needed more police visibility as the last thing the community needed was for community members to take matters in their own hands.

She said in some instances the police are not aware of crimes being committed as community members would rather post it on social media than call the police.

“Crimes must be reported otherwise crime statistics are incorrect and the amount of police officers are cut. It is the responsibility of the community to report crimes,” she said.

Johann Kilkillus of Soteria Ministries said there had been ongoing shootings in Ocean View since Friday night.

He said gangsterism has been an ongoing problem in the community for many years and despite bringing it to the attention of the authorities and even the Deputy Minister of Police, Bongani Mkongi, no action has been taken.

“Last year there was even a debate as to whether there was in fact a gang problem or not,” he said.

Mr Kilkillus said as a result, Ocean View police station is horribly understaffed and there is no presence of Metro police or law enforcement in the area.

He said his office deals with the emotional damage caused by gangsterism and the high level of trauma felt among children and adults alike.

He feels it is too late to take political action as the damage to the community has been done.

“To change this problem, we require leadership with a fresh vision. I have worked with gangsters for a very long time. They don’t simply wake up and start shooting. The problem is here because the system has failed,” he said.

He added that another problem is that Correctional Services are not able to rehabilitate gangsters who are incarcerated and many of the inmates come out “schooled” to be more violent than before.

“The entire system of education, social development, justice, safety and security is not working and as a result is actually contributing to the gangsterism. These departments along with NGOs and the religious bodies need to sit down and come up with a new plan,” he said.

Provincial police spokeswoman, Sergeant Noloyiso Rwexana, said detectives had combed the area for clues on Saturday and are investigating the case but no arrests have been made in the Davids case yet while Sergeant Leon Fortuin from the Ocean View police station confirmed that sporadic shooting flared up the entire weekend.

He said although no arrests have been made in the murder case yet, several other unrelated arrests for possession of drugs, possession of dangerous weapons and possession of ammunition were made.

Anyone with information about the shootings can call Ocean View police station on 021 783 8300.