Murder after march for peace

A community in full strength, demanding peace. Picture: Alistair Berg

Ocean View is at breaking point. Just two days after young and old held a peaceful anti-crime march, more shooting in the troubled neighbourhood claimed the life of a 7-year-old girl.

Emaan Solomons was hit in the chest and hand by a bullet in the yard of her Libra Street home on Tuesday night. She died in hospital.

On the same night, the body of 31-year-old Abdullah Ellis was found in a shack in a field in Andromeda Way, according to Ocean View police spokesman Sergeant Leon Fortuin. It’s believed he was shot earlier that morning.

There were unconfirmed reports that the body of a third victim, a young man, was found in a wetland, on the same night.

Facebook has been flooded with posts from mothers in Ocean View who spoke about going into their children’s rooms to just watch them sleep, hear them breathe; about their heartbreak and fear of when their children have to walk to school in a neighbourhood which has become a war zone.

In other posts, doubts were raised about the effect of peaceful marches and ultimatums not heeded by gangsters, and there is a renewal of the call to fight violence with violence, and talk about burning down the homes of known gangsters.

During Sunday’s march against Ocean View’s drugs, gangs and crime, ward councillor, Simon Liell-Cock, delivered letters to suspected crime dens in the area.

“If things do not change, we the community will continue to highlighting these concerns and will pay you a visit again,” the letters said.

Mr Liell-Cock said the mostly peace-loving residents of Ocean View were held hostage by crime. He called the march an “amazing, wonderful show of unity”.

For three hours some 1 500 to 2 000 people – led by religious leaders – walked and prayed in the neighbourhood’s crime hot spots.

“I commend those leaders who stepped forward and initiated this march, and I commend those members of the public, both from inside and outside Ocean View, who supported it. Also, thanks to the Ocean View SAPS station commander, Lieutenant Colonel Monwabisi Buzwayo, and his team as well as the City’s law enforcement and traffic officials,” Mr Liell-Cock said.

“If Ocean View can unite like this in non-violent action, we will win the fight, and our children will inherit the fruits of our work. Be assured this is just the start.”

Sergeant Fortuin said the march had been a peaceful one, with Metro police escorting it.

There has been a litany of loss in Ocean View in recent years, and several videos circulating in the community grimly tell of it. One carries the slogan “We dare not forget” as 50 faces are shown: 50 lives lost to the Ocean View community.

The video starts with a baby’s face. Among the dead is Jocelyn Claasen, a pregnant state witness to the murder of David Wolfram in Soetwater last year. She was shot dead earlier this month, (“State witness murdered,” Echo February 6).

Residents too afraid to speak on the record say blood is spilt weekly in gang-related shootings or stabbings, and even when the streets are quiet, the anticipation of the next death is palpable.

Those who have lived in fear of gang reprisals chose safety in numbers on Sunday afternoon when they met at the Ocean View Mosque.

They brought banners saying “Enough is enough”, “Bring in the army” and “Enough murder”. And for the first time, they had residents of Kommetjie and Scarborough join them.

One resident spoke of an undercurrent of uprising among the community with murmured threats, born from frustration, to torch the homes of known criminals.

One concerned resident said the march was peaceful and signified unity among law-abiding people in the community, but they added: “It was also letting the gangsters know that we are a community edging ever closer to our tipping point.”

Another resident said the killings and crime so rampant in Ocean View were the scars of apartheid.

Yet another called for a rehab facility in Ocean View. He said once the drug merchants and gangs had been moved, the community would still be sitting with children addicted to drugs. “It has been proven that going to jail just makes you worse for when you get out. Putting our children in jail isn’t helping them,” he said.

Just hours after the march, a young man was shot four times. He survived, but that violent incident proved to be a harbinger of the murders that would follow on Tuesday.

“They spat in our faces,” said a resident. “Just hours later there was a young man shot, and all day long on Monday, the shooting was going on. We live in a war zone,” the person said.