The tragic murder of five-year-old Valentino Grootetjie who was brutally shot in the back of the head on Saturday by a gangster in Lavender Hill has horrified community members and grown the already disproportionate sense of danger for those living in gang-ridden areas. The little boy was playing in his own backyard when he was shot and killed. Community activist Lucinda Evans commented on the murder, saying that she no longer knows what to tell people wanting to keep their children safe, as they aren’t even safe in their private spaces.
Evans says the family of Valentino is completely broken by their loss and expressed frustration at parents of gangsters protecting their children who are directly – and indirectly – responsible for the losses of innocent families.
“As an activist, with the beginning of festive season I spoke about the supervision of children…Valentino was killed in his backyard playing with and protecting his brother when this adult monster came and shot the child in the back of his head. Where are children safe?” asked Lucinda in a clearly frustrated and confused tone.
She had strong words for those communities still protecting and glorifying gangsters who she referred to as “monsters”.
“I want to speak to the mothers’ hearts: you don’t give birth to a gangster, but when you protect your son that has shot another woman’s baby, it makes you a co-perpetrator.
For those mothers hearing my voice this morning, I want to say: you are a perpetrator. Give up your son so that the rest of our children can play safely.”
Steenberg’s CPF chairperson Gavin Walbraght similarly expressed anger and frustration at the murder of the young boy, saying that he “can’t even explain the horror over the weekend with the death of this little child.”
He says that in the last three or four months there have been three children murdered and one injured through gang activity and crossfire. He explained that although crime safety plans were supposed to be in place in the area, these haven’t been implemented effectively.
Walbraght stressed the need for the prevention of crime and gang violence in the community, rather than symptomatic treatment.
“We don’t want the police to come into our area after the fact – we need the police and the forces to be flooding Lavender Hill and the Steenberg area before these things happen…We need people on the ground to prevent the shootings,” he said.
Like Evans, he complained of the reluctance from community members to provide information to fight gangsterism and gang violence. This reluctance, he says, will continue to allow the problem to persist and worsen.
“It’s not normal for a child to grow up in these situations,” said Walbraght.
Two suspects were arrested by detectives of the Anti-Gang Unit on the day of the incident in connection with the murder and will appear in court on Friday.