The opening of a playground for children in Ocean View on Saturday February 5 was an emotional day for the parents of three slain children who died after being struck by stray bullets.
The park is dedicated to Aqeel Davids, Zahnia Thorne Woodward, and Emaan Solomon who all lost their lives in gang shootings.
The children are known as Ocean View’s angels and the park situated in Libra Road is next to the house where Emaan was shot.
The park has a jungle gym, a slide, and a sandpit, and the walls have been repainted in bright colours with the alphabet, and there are hopscotch markings on the ground. A local artist has started painting a mural of Zhania, Emaan, and Aqeel on one of the walls.
The park is the brainchild of Aslam Richards, a PR councillor for the Patriotic Alliance and founder of the Cape Flats Wellness Centre, a local NPO.
Aqeel Davids, 9, was shot in the head on Saturday September 9, 2017, by a stray bullet from warring gangsters (“Casualties of war,” Echo September 14, 2017); six-month-old Zahnia Thorne Woodward was shot in Carnation Road, on Friday December 30, 2016, while sitting on her father’s lap (“Residents mourn Zahnia’s death,” Echo, January 5, 2017); and Emaan Solomon, 7, was shot in the chest and hand on February 25, 2020, while playing outside (“Murder after march for peace,” Echo February 27, 2020).
Mr Richards said the park would be a gang-free zone and children could feel safe playing there.
“I have spoken to the gangsters, and they have given me their word that the park will remain a safe space. I want families to come here and enjoy the space and feel safe while spending time with their children.”
Cindy Robyn, baby Zahnia’s mother, said it was a bittersweet moment for her.
“It is heartwarming that my baby isn’t forgotten and that she will always be remembered, but I also feel emotional as she should have been here with me enjoying this lovely park.”
Aqueel’s father, Dickie Davids, said he did not have words to describe what he was feeling.
“I’m feeling overwhelmed, but this is good for the community, and there should be more spaces like this for our children.”
Emaan’s father, Azmir Oosthuizen, said it was comforting for him to know his daughter’s memory was so close to home.
“It’s (the park) a big improvement to what it was and it will be good for the community. Emaan’s little brother will be playing there.”
The day was filled with music and educational activities such as chess, and each child received a party pack provided by the SAS Foundation.
Co-founder of the SAS Foundation Adiela Smith said they were not a registered NPO but just a group that “does good in the community”.
They provide hot meals to the community and arrange fun activities for the children such as movie nights.
“We don’t have many safe spaces for children in Ocean View, and this is such a good idea. We are excited to be able to contribute to this day.”
Jocelyn Esterhuizen, who was at the park with her son, Rogan, 3, said there was not much for children to do in Ocean View and the space was a welcome addition to the community.
“It is sad that there aren’t many places where children are safe so it’s fantastic to have this space.”