'We are tired of these senseless killings': Residents come out in droves to pay homage to victims of Melville shooting

2020-01-03 06:14
A mourner lays a candle down for those gunned down in the Melville shooting.

A mourner lays a candle down for those gunned down in the Melville shooting. (Azarrah Karrim)

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It is a quiet, calm evening as people gather outside Poppy's restaurant in Melville, Johannesburg, to pay tribute to the patrons who were gunned down in the New Year's Melville shooting that took the lives of two women and injured six others.

The mood was solemn, the heartbreak palpable.

Loud sniffs and sobbing could be heard in the crowd as residents and affected families, accompanied by security guards, laid down flowers and candles as a tribute in front of Poppy's.

An hour after the clock struck 12 on New Year's Eve, a black BMW SUV drove past the restaurant and opened fire on its patrons.

The reason for the shooting is unclear but police have launched a manhunt for those involved.

HMA High Risk Security, the company hired to patrol the area and the first responders on the scene, gathered its platoon in a show of support.

In bullet proof jackets and guns over their shoulders, they cordoned off 7th Street and stood silently among the mourners.

The vigil was organised by two clinical psychologists to help the families affected by the shooting.

Dozens of people from Melville and beyond gathered on the popular street.

A friend of the owner of Poppy's told News24 what happened was simply "unfair".

"What happened is just so very sad, the lives that have been lost … it's just not fair what they did," the friend, who wished to remain anonymous, told News24 as mourners sang Silent Night in the background.

"That lady [the owner] is just a beautiful lady, she is taking it very hard, but I'll be coming back again," she said.

Margret Arnolds, the MMC for Community Development in the City of Johannesburg and friend of the owner, condemned the attack.

"We are here because we know the owner of Poppy's, she is someone who sponsors us and gives back to the community.

"We are also here because we are tired of these senseless killings, and we wanted to be here to prove to people that, as women, we all come together and believe we must give support wherever women are killed," Arnolds said.

"We are calling on the justice system … to start looking at why people are having this leeway to just go around and shoot. We believe that something needs to be done because you can't have killings every day, it's as if it is the norm."

READ | 'Crackers, chaos and calmness': Victim recounts New Year’s shoot out in Melville

Husband and wife Dineo and Edwin Afitile, who live in Melville, said they were lucky to be alive.

"My favourite place is this establishment. I feel very close to it and I relate to this whole situation because I was also thinking of [coming to Poppy's] and having some drinks that night.

"It could have been me, or it could have been my husband," Dineo said, holding back tears.

Edwin said he had been to Poppy's many times over the years, adding they came to the vigil to send their condolences to the affected families.

"This is so close to home, it's the place we go to most of the time… I feel a bit hopeless in terms of the crime rate that is going up in the country and not coming down," he said.

"We are filled with so much fear," Dineo added.

"When we walk on the street, we are afraid, when a car passes by, we wonder what will happen, what’s next?

"It's sad to start the year on such a tone," she said.

Edward Sibanda has been the manager of a nearby establishment, Xai Xai, for the past eight years.

He saw the aftermath of the shooting on New Year's Eve.

Now, as he stood among the crowd, he covered his mouth in shock.

"My spirit collapsed when I saw what happened. We were all in such high spirits as the new year came in but after that, my spirit shattered," he said.

WATCH | Outside the bloody Melville shooting scene: 'Gunshots sounded like fireworks'

He described seeing the two women, one shot in the neck and the other in the ribs.

"I saw her trying to stand up, but she couldn't, her injuries wouldn't allow it."

As someone who "researches guns", Sibanda said he knew immediately the shots that rung out were not fireworks.

"I know guns … that was a 9mm handgun."

Sibanda said there was a close relationship between the managers on the street.

"If one person needs something, we will give it to them. I feel so bad for the owner, she is heavily affected and might lose customers, but she needs support and positivity otherwise she will collapse," he added.

Read more on:    melville  |  johannesburg  |  crime

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