Family mourns death

2019-12-17 06:00
Ayesha Kelly was a Grade 4 learner at Tafelsig Primary.

Ayesha Kelly was a Grade 4 learner at Tafelsig Primary.

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The heartbreak of losing a young child to gang violence is written on the faces of her family and neighbours.

Their pain only made worse by the fact that the alleged killer was considered a friend.

It has been a sombre start to the festive season for the Kelly family who has to face this holiday period without 10-year-old Ayesha. She was caught in the crossfire of rival gangs mere metres from her Tafelsig home on Sunday 8 December.

For her mother, Inshaaf, she has lost more than just a daughter.

“I looked up to her. She was more than just my eldest child,” says Insaaf.

Her stepfather, Johnathan Arendse, says the pain of the ordeal is too much to bear.

“This really hurts. My heart is broken but I know I need to be strong for her and strong for the family,” says Arendse.

“The man who killed her was our friend. I would sit with him in the afternoon after work and if Inshaaf cooked, she would dish a plate for him too.”

Neighbours had come together in the street on that Sunday afternoon.

Inshaaf and Ayesha were on their way to the shop when she was distracted and turned back while Ayesha continued.

“The music was loud in the street and none of us heard the gunshots,” says Inshaaf.

“Someone came running around the corner to tell me Ayesha had been shot. I couldn’t get to her as fast as I wanted to. I held her, I was crying and calling out her name but she wasn’t responding. I just knew she was gone.”

An ambulance arrived and declared Ayesha dead at the scene.

Tafelsig is one of the gang-ridden areas where soldiers have been deployed to help stem the scourge of gang violence. At the time Ayesha was killed, the South African Defence Force along with police were conducting operation lockdown in the next street.

National police minister Bheki Cele says this is the reason for the speedy arrests.

“The suspects were arrested within an hour,” says Cele.

But Arendse says the system has failed them.

“The army has made no difference here,” says Arendse.

Fayrouz Kelly, Ayesha’s grandmother, agrees.

“The army hoot and come through with their guns and their tanks, but that is all they do here,” she says.

“Even at the janaaza, these gangsters were still shooting and continued shooting even when we were carrying her body to the masjied.”

Cele and national police commissioner Lt Gen Khehla Sithole visited the family on Wednesday 11 December, followed by a large contingent of police vehicles.

As Cele and his entourage walked to the scene of the shooting, angry residents shouted: “This is the first time we see so many police vans in our area,” and “Why must it take a child dying to see the police”. 

“The army means nothing here. When I was a child and I saw a soldier I would get scared and run away. Now when a soldier walks around with their guns, children run toward them, wanting to know what they are doing here. Children are not scared of guns anymore,” says Shamieg George, a neighbour.

“When the army leaves the area, the gangsters start shooting again so that shows me nothing they do can change this area.”

Anne Muller, another resident, says they are being held prisoner in their own homes.

“These gangsters don’t care. They shoot at any time, at anyone; no matter who is in the street,” she says.

But Cele says the deployment of the SANDF has made a difference, saying more than 2000 people are still in custody following interventions. 

He says it is never easy to conduct these kind of visits.

“It would be nice to not have to visit any families because this should not be happening,” he says.

Police spokesperson Brig Novela Potelwa confirms two suspects, aged 21 and 26, were arrested following the shooting.

Both suspects are believed to have strong links to local gangs.

One of the suspects appeared at the Mitchell’s Plain Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday 11 December. Family and residents all marched to court to show their support, calling for justice.

The case was postponed to Thursday 23 January pending an identity parade, citing the suspect has multiple nicknames and aliases.

Inshaaf says she is unhappy with how the case has been handled. 

“The justice system has failed me and my daughter. The suspect appeared via camera and no one came to tell us what was happening,” she says. 

Fayrouz says the community has rallied around the family following the murder.

“They have stood by us and made us stronger,” she says. “We are going to work together to make a difference here. We are worried about these angels running around here. I miss Ayesha but seeing these children alive and around me makes me happy.”

One of these organisations is the Tafelsig Community Upliftment Forum.

Forum chair Lizel Manuel says they will work together to prevent any further killings. “We see this as a senseless killing. A child who was killed through violence she has no part in,” she says. “We are calling on an intervention that will see change.”

Cele offered his condolences to the many families who had lost children recently and vowed police would continue to fight the scourge of gangsterism. 

He said the deployment of an additional 1000 officers was a sign of their commitment to the province. He added residents had a role to play in keeping streets gun-free and expressed the hope that South Africa would adopt similar policies to that of Japan’s which sees no civilian being able to carry or obtain firearms. 

The national police ministry is currently running a firearms amnesty initiative until 31 March, calling on those who are in possession of illegal or unwanted firearms to surrender them to their nearest police station, which will then be destroyed.

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