By Loushe Jordaan
Most mothers on the Cape Flats watch their children grow up with hopes and dreams for them to become more than just a statistic. Capetonians hear stories about children being killed, being roped into the life of gangsterism and find ourselves praying that this won’t happen to their child. Parents try to protect their children the best they can, but then, in a single, life altering moment, a stray bullet hits them and they are gone, leaving behind a grieving and aching mother, with nothing other than memories and dashed dreams for her child.
“My son was killed after someone asked him for a cigarette and he refused. He was only 17 years old. They robbed him and shot him instantly killing him”, says Amanda Davids.*
“My son had hopes and dreams of finishing matric, starting a family and working to better our circumstances. All those dreams was taken away from him when he was shot two doors from where we stay,” says Kashiefa Muhammed.
Thelma Newman from Hanover Park says her son was on holiday and was killed with a slab. She could barely recognise her 26 year old.
These are but a few mothers who have lost their children, children that are well spoken about in their communities for being well mannered, kind and generous, and children who many others parents wished their children could be.
In areas such as Mitchells Plain, Hanover Park, Manenberg, and Lavender Hill, gang violence has claimed so many lives. What is sad is that these children were not part of any gang activities yet they are labelled as such simply because of what they were wearing, the manner in which they had died and the area they come from. It is sad that it has become a norm for children to be killed and automatically be labelled as a gangster or thief just because they were at the wrong place at the wrong time.
But what happens to the bereaved mothers, what justice is there for her? What is sad is, most times the mothers know their child’s killer because they are a neighbour and even a family friend, but you they can’t say anything because you might be next.
“Die man wat my kind geskiet ek loop elke dag verby my (This man that shot my son walks past me every day). Dit breek my hart om te weet dat hy vry loop terwyl my kind dood is (It breaks my heart to know that he walks freely while my child is dead),” says a heartbroken Samantha Van Reenen*.
Sitting at an outreach program hosted by a group called Moms for Justice Women with seven different mothers, there is a sombre atmosphere. Some women lost their children two years ago, others 5 years and then there are those who lost their children only last month, yet they are all as broken and emotions are still so raw.
“The pain I feel can never be described. The day I found out that Devon was killed; my life came to a standstill. There are times when I physically feel ill, I can’t breathe, I feel like I am losing my mind and my heart hearts just thinking I won’t see my son smiling at me,” says Thelma Newman.
One mother shared how she had planned to kill her son’s killer. She had planned it out so perfectly, but on that day, she could not do it, simply because she didn’t want another mother to feel the pain she is currently facing.
“I called him over that morning, hugged him and had the knife in the sleeves of my jacket, I wanted him to die. But as I hugged him, all I could think of was his mom and the tears she would shed when she receives the news of her sons passing,” a sobbing Kathy Alexander* shares with the group.
All these cases are on-going and some awaiting trial. All these mothers believe their children’s murder cases are being overlooked because has become such a norm for people to be killed in the gang conflict zones. One mother went as far as saying that cases are not taken seriously and are withdrawn because of corruption. She says she had to go to the police station every single day just to make sure there was still a docket.
“Corruption is taking place in our areas. Cases go cold because of corruption. There is no justice for us because we give up, not because we want to but because it is emotionally draining”, says Abigail September*.
Speaking to the South African Police Service in the Western Cape , they were unable to provide any comment because of the severity of the situation.
A crying mother shared a heartfelt message to all gangsters out there.
“Stop killing our children, please just stop killing them. They don’t deserve to die like this. You don’t know what you are doing to the bereaved mothers, we are left broken and the pain never goes away.”
If you are a mother who recently lost a child, or who has lost a child and is struggling to deal with it, reach out to the Moms for Justice Campaign on 073 598 4783.
For anyone who needs counselling and professional support, the Trauma Centre based in Woodstock has a special program called “Trauma Support” to assist.[Names has been changed to protect the identities of these mothers]