‘My mom died in my lap’ – Cape Town girl witnesses mom's death


Cape Town - Megan was 12 years old when her mother was shot four times in front of her while on their way to their local fruit and veg shop.

Her mom collapsed in her lap, and died ten minutes later.

Tariq was 7 years old when a stray bullet pierced his spine just metres from his home's front door.

He had been playing with four friends during the December school holidays.

These are the lived realities of two children in Manenberg, Cape Town, where times of peace and war interchange with the seasons.

A walk to the shop

In February of this year, Megan was walking with her mother Sharlene to a Fruit & Veg store close to their Manenberg home one Monday evening.

It was late, around 22:15, but there were still plenty of people around, as is common in communal Cape Flats areas.

"My mommy and I were on the way to the shop when this guy shouted to another guy, 'Raak wys ek is ‘n Clever Kid’, and they [just] started shooting," Megan says.

Four shots rang out, allegedly from the Clever Kid gang member. The other gangster, a Hard Livings member, did not shoot back.

At first, Megan and her mom scurried out the way, to take themselves out of the crossfire.

But after the shooting had stopped, almost as quickly as it began, and the perpetrators had disappeared, Megan’s mom quietly told her to "go to Aunty Ruth", who lived nearby.

"When we came there [to Aunty Ruth's house] my mommy was already bleeding," Megan continues.

"I asked her why she was bleeding, but she just told me to go to Aunty Ruth."

She never made it inside.

"She fell on my lap. That’s the time Aunty Ruth's nephew opened the gate."

She was shot around 22:25 that Monday night.

At 22:35, on the pavement outside her friend's house, Sharlene passed away, on her daughter's lap.

In the heart of the feud

It was 10:00 in the morning, and four boys, including a boy named Tariq, were enjoying their December school holidays, playing near his home in Ryga Court, Manenberg.

"I was at work. They just went to play outside. There were four little boys playing in a tyre," his mother recalls.

Ryga Court is a housing block in Manenberg, a simple rectangular building parallel to six others just like it, with a courtyard separating each "court".

To the south of their court is the territory of the Americans gang; to the north, the Jesters. And their courtyard serves as a thoroughfare between the two.

According to Tariq's mom, an American gangster and a Jester crossed paths that Wednesday morning in the courtyard, while Tariq and his four friends played.

It was during a weeks-long feud between the rival gangs in December 2014.

The American spotted the Jester first, and got to the draw quickest, releasing a hail of bullets.

Trying to manoeuvre out of the tight, enclosed space, the Jester ran past the four boys, away from his attacker.

The children ran, but Tariq was too late.

The second bullet struck him in the back and immediately he couldn't move.

He collapsed next to the tyre as both friends and gangsters ran away, and lay there, helpless.

Tariq's sister Nadia was at home at the time of the incident. She found him first, still conscious.

"Everybody was panicking. They picked him up and put him on a plank. They didn't know he was shot," his mother explains.

"The ambulance took too long so we took him to the hospital ourselves in the bakkie."

It would be six months before Tariq returned home.

He was admitted immediately to the Red Cross Hospital, and then transferred to Western Cape Hospital in Lenteguer to aid in his recuperation.

The bullet had pierced his spinal cord, paralysing him for life.

Peace and burial

"I didn’t have a problem with any kind of gangs before, but since that time, I have a big problem," says Megan's father, and Sharlene's ex-husband.

"Why must I support my children and raise them up... knowing I haven't got my other half with me to help?"

Megan's father and Sharlene had been divorced for some time, but lived together in the same home, and raised their shared family of six together.

He recalls the night one of his sons fetched him to tell him Sharlene had been shot.

"Her face was full of blood, and she was bleeding from the head. I tried to help her. She was shot in the stomach, the knee, her cheek and her head; four shots.

"I wasn't even 15 minutes on the scene, and I had a blackout. I passed out.

"The last thing I can remember, I even tried to fight with the police. They were trying to get me away from her."

Police arrived shortly after midnight. Forensics arrived on the scene around two-and-a-half hours later, while her body lay in the road.

"Her aunties, her cousins; there were a lot of people in the road. We just had to wait.

"She was a mother for all in the road. There wasn’t a person like her."

Six days later, the Clever Kids and the Hard Livings made peace.

The next day, Sharlene was buried.

‘Just a normal boy’

Tariq's mom says he rarely speaks about how he feels, or about what happened to him on December 17, 2014.

Tariq, now 9, has yet to speak to a psychologist, with only a physiotherapist provided to aid his physical recovery from his spinal injury.

"He can see all the other children playing and he's smaller brother and he probably thinks 'why can't I do it?’” his mom says.

"He's got an aggressive manner. I don't know what's on his mind. He's a very intelligent boy though, that I can tell you."

His mom says her son was "a normal boy" who liked to play prior to the incident.

At his school, he seems more content, the hive of activity distracting him from his inability to walk. He plays with his friends, and they push him around in his wheelchair during break.

"At first he was very scared of going outside. But now I talk to him, he mustn't be scared. He must mix with the world. So he's coping now.

"But sometimes he still gets very miserable. I don't know what he's thinking."

'I cope'

Megan is the youngest of six children. She has two siblings, and three half-siblings.

She has a strong outward demeanour for a child of 12, not what you’d expect of someone who had witnessed their mother die.

"I cope. I pretend to be strong, but I’m coping,” she says.

When asked how her brothers and sisters were doing, she says: "I don’t know. Some are weak and some are strong. But we’re all pretending to be strong.”

Both Megan and her father have been seeing a counsellor to help process their grief. For her father, it is a good way to work through his pain.

"We all try to be a family as we used to be, but everybody is grieving in a different way,” he says to encourage his daughter.

"They do things as they didn’t do before.

"At her funeral, it was like the president was buried. There were lots and lots of people."

Justice on the Cape Flats

I ask Tariq's mom what she hopes will happen to the perpetrators.

"We know who [did it]. But nothing is happened to the case because people don't want to go testify. They are obviously scared," she says.

Megan's father, though, is still hopeful.

"I just want justice to be done," he says in answer to the same question.

"They took a piece of diamond away from us.

"Just the day before we buried Sharlene, they made peace. And the gangsters are walking in the street like friends again," he says angrily and tearfully.

"But we can't go back and fetch her again.

"We can't hear her voice. We're never gonna see her again."

Tariq's case is considered 'cold'. It happened more than two years ago and no witnesses have stepped forward.

Sharlene's investigation is ongoing, Western Cape police confirmed to News24.

There were over 20 murders in Manenberg during the six-week period of gang war earlier this year.

The investigating officer is hoping her autopsy report, due this week, could help shed light on things.

But so far, no progress has been made on Sharlene's case.

*UPDATE: All names of people and places have been changed to conceal the identity of the parties involved, and pictures removed.

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