'The last melting pot': Melville's Seventh Street recovering after fatal New Year's shooting

2020-01-19 10:11

Walking around the infamous Seventh Street in Melville, one would not think a violent tragedy had occurred just two weeks earlier.

It is clear the wound the shooting created is still fresh, but many believe the street will recover with the support of its community.  

The Melville shooting on New Year's Day, in which a BMW SUV cruised past Poppy's restaurant and opened fire on its patrons, has certainly affected how people now view the area.

The incident left two dead and six others injured but no arrests have been made for the seemingly senseless act.

Since the shooting, some businesses on the street say they have experienced nights with no customers, others say the street has seen vibrant activity.

Likewise, some say they will never return, while others maintain they will not live in fear.

Heidi has been the owner of a bar and restaurant on Seventh Street for the past nine years.

READ | Specialised detective unit assigned to investigate New Year's shootings in Melville, Newtown

Despite this, she said the first Friday of the year was worst she had ever experienced.

She added while the incident was horrific, people were starting to come back.

"I will not, over my dead body, let Melville be condemned," Heidi said.

"Melville is the most cosmopolitan area in the whole of South Africa. Any Tom, Dick or Harry comes here, and it's always been like that - all races, sexes, doctors, journalists, judges hang out here, it's where you come for fun," she added.

Mark* is one such person.

He has worked in Melville since he was young, having started as a waiter. He now owns a bar on the street.

"Melville has always been something I wanted to be a part of, and for something like that to happen is very devastating," Mark said.

"I watched the street last week Friday and Saturday when we were closing, and there was life, and energy and people here," he added.

"Melville is the last melting pot, it's the last cultural place which isn't Fourways, isn't Rosebank or Illovo… I love being a part of what South Africa really is."

'I'm not about to die in Melville'

But one patron having a drink with friends said she would not be coming back.

Just as she arrived, she said, a robbery occurred before her eyes.

"When that incident happened, I was really questioning my decision to come here, I just wanted to get in my car and drive away," she added.

She said it was not so much the New Year's shooting which perturbed her, but her belief that Melville was simply generally too dangerous.

"This will be my last time here, I'm not about to die in Melville," she said.

But Michaela* feels different.

Sitting at an outside table of a restaurant for a business meeting, she said she was vigilant and believed the shooting was a once-off.

"For me, I see what happened here as a ripple effect of people not having a decent outlet to express their real issues."

Before Michaela set off for her meeting, however, she said she immediately thought of that tragic night.

"I thought, am I not going to go to Melville because of that one incident or am I going to choose to go because I believe we write our own destinies?"

Sitting outside, she said she felt safe, adding she would not live her life in fear.

"I don't have fear, I'm totally OK with it … if I happen to get shot … so be it, I won't live my life in fear, that's not living," she said.

Read more on:    johannesburg  |  crime
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