'I'm afraid to contact Sophiatown police because I could be next' - Westbury mother fears pursuing dead son's gang attack

(Iavan Pijoos, News24)
(Iavan Pijoos, News24)

Two grieving Westbury women have lost hope in the justice system following the deaths of their loved ones, killed in gang-related violence in the area.

The two women opened their hearts to News24 about the pain of waiting for the killers of their relatives to see the inside of a court room or jail cell.

One of the women wanted to remain anonymous fearing that those who killed her brother in 1999 would come after her.

"In this violent township, we live in fear thinking whose child is next," said Jacqueline le Roux who lost two sons to gang violence in Westbury and nearby Newclare.

Parts of Newclare are controlled by the Fast Guns gang allegedly led by Sheldon Keenan Ebrahim, while other parts of Westbury are controlled by the Varados gang under the alleged leadership of Leroy "Finch" Brown.

Ebrahim, Brown and two Sophiatown police officers, Warrant Officer Wynand Steyn and Sergeant Tom Keet, are accused of being involved in separate gang-related murders committed in the area.

A mother's pain

Le Roux's eldest son, Ashell le Roux, 34, was killed on December 14, 2016, near Agatha flats. Her other son, Keenan Jantjies, 29, was killed on June 4, 2017, a few blocks from his home.

On April 21, 2016, Reagan Jacobs, was shot and killed, allegedly by Brown and his co-accused, Christopher "Pitso" Charles, with the help of Steyn, at Agatha flats.

Brown, Steyn and Charles are facing charges for his murder in the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court. Steyn, who is understood to be a long-serving officer, is also allegedly tied to Brown's rival, Ebrahim. The policeman is expected to stand trial together with Ebrahim and 10 others in the High Court in Johannesburg later this year.

READ: Warrant of arrest issued for cop allegedly linked to two Westbury gangs

"Ashell was killed hours after he attended his brother's court case in Johannesburg. His killers followed him from court and mistook him for being a Fast Guns gang member. He was killed in broad daylight. I can't say he was a gangster or not because he was always indoors minding his own things unlike his younger brother.

"Many people saw Ashell being ambushed and killed. They are afraid to come out and talk. A month after Jacobs was killed, policemen from Sophiatown police station arrived at my flat and threatened to kill Ashell. Those officers were allegedly sent by a well-known police reservist from Sophiatown."

She said Brown and Charles were arrested for Ashell's death but were later freed by the court.

"Keenan was a Fast Guns member. He was killed by his friend who minutes later committed suicide with the same gun he killed my child with. I don't know what is going on with Ashell's case. I am afraid to contact Sophiatown police because I could be next. I am afraid to go and ask them at Sophiatown police station about Ashell's case. I don't trust the police anymore.

"I am afraid to go to the shops. My daughter is always locking herself inside our flat. We live like prisoners. Whenever I hear about another youngster being killed, it brings [back] old memories. I am battling to sleep and rely on sleeping tablets. I have left everything in God's hands to deliver justice," she said.

Le Roux said her son, Clyde Jantjies, was in prison awaiting trial for theft, adding that he felt safer in prison than being in Newclare.

"My son was a sweet person until he committed a crime which landed him in prison. He doesn't want to be released on bail because he has received threats that he is next. He has been moved from Sun City [Johannesburg Prison] to another prison which I can't disclose for his own safety.

"Prison officials did a great thing by moving him away from Sun City after several attempts to poison him. Clyde is not a gangster, his only sin was that he witnessed a murder which was committed allegedly by Varados gang members. There is a R50 000 reward for anyone who will kill my son," she said.

The woman, who refused to be identified, said if she had money she would have relocated from Westbury, because gunshots that ring out almost daily bring back memories of her brother who was killed in 1999.

"In 2015, on my brother's birthday, my mother collapsed from stress of not finding closure. Two days later, she died in hospital. My mother had sleepless nights when she thought about how my brother was killed. What is sad is that his killers are roaming the streets and one of them wants to befriend me.

"I have given up that his case will be revived. I am only praying for God to give us justice," she said.

READ MORE: Westbury gang case: Arrested cop says he was not on duty on day of shooting 

Community leader Shaheim Ismail said there were many "cold" murder cases that were deliberately not being investigated by Sophiatown officers because some of them were allegedly involved with the gangs.

"Those cases need to be revived and the killers be brought to book. We live with many killers here who continue killing people daily because they know they won't be arrested," he said.

Ismail called on residents to stand up and support Police Minister Bheki Cele in his quest to end gang violence in the area.

"The community must support the government. We have established an anti-gang and drugs structure locally to support the government, but some people don't want to participate. The other problem leading to people joining gangs and using drugs is unemployment. 

"Most of the youngsters here are from prisons. When they come out they can't find jobs and return back to drugs and gangs. It is a vicious circle."

Ismail called on the government to treat drug-related offences as Schedule 5 and 6 offences.

"Everybody dealing, manufacturing and supplying drugs must be charged with either a Schedule 5 or 6 offence because drugs kill our people. Our community is flooded with guns. Westbury needs a specialist unit at police station-level dealing with unlicensed and licensed guns. We can't be losing lives like this here.

"Every life is valuable and precious. When one child dies, we become hurt. Also, the drug trade is massive here and we need strict interventions to tackle it. Minister Cele is taking too long to intervene seriously here. He must act now and arrest every gang and drug dealer in Westbury. We feel that the police commissioner [General Khehla Sitole] has failed us and must be removed. We want someone who is brave enough to deal with the drug and gang wars in this country," he said.

Police spokesperson Captain Kay Makhubele said they have established a team that is investigating some of the cases that were never investigated by Sophiatown police detectives.
"We have received many complaints about those cases that were allegedly never investigated. There is a team that is working some of those cases," said Makhubele

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