One wanted to be a doctor, another a police officer, and one just wanted to give her son a better life.
But nine days ago, those dreams — and many others — were snuffed out in seconds by gunmen who wanted to kill the witnesses to an earlier shooting in the same street.
Six young women were shot dead last Friday evening in Marcus Garvey, a Rastafarian settlement in Philippi, Cape Town. They were Isis Saphula, 18, Queen Williams, 26, her cousin Buyiswa Bulana, 26, Zimkhitha Mdidimba, 18, Lelethu Njikazi, 15, and Siyamthanda Anderson, 20.
Anderson and Saphula were shot in a shack in front of a house while the other four women were killed in the house, in front of Williams’s four-year-old son.
Five days earlier two of them had witnessed members of the Destruction Boys gang killing Mzamo Bacela, 26, and Sthembiso Adonis, 55, a few metres away.
Bacela and Adonis were shot on June 30 when men wearing police bulletproof vests forced a woman they had met on the street to knock on the front door of a house and call out Bacela’s name.
According to Andile Mbindela, who was in the house with the men, Bacela recognised the voice and opened the door, only to be shot in the mouth. Mbindela, who hid under a car, said the men stabbed another man, shot a pet pitbull and Adonis, then ransacked the house and made off with three TV sets and cash.
Bulana’s aunt, Nomahlubi, said her niece had feared for her life. “She sent a Facebook message to our relatives saying that they were being sought by a gang called Destruction Boys,” she said.
“A neighbour who had been sitting with [Siyamthanda] and Isis in a shack in front of the house told us that she had left them for a few minutes when she heard gunshots.
“Neighbours told us that … the gangsters were after two ladies on the property and shot everyone else to eliminate witnesses. The two that they sought had apparently witnessed another shooting in the same street a few days before, so the gang came back to wipe out any possible witnesses.”
The names of the six women have been added to hundreds on a list of murder victims that this week led to the deployment of soldiers on the Cape Flats.
Each one of them left families in mourning.
Nomahlubi, who raised Bulana, said that her niece had wanted to be a police officer, “but I encouraged her to work towards something better”.
“Crime destroyed Buyiswa in a number of ways. She was raped by a neighbour as a child. She never recovered from that ordeal and her life took a downward spiral. She was full of anger and her dreams were shattered — and now her life. All the bright dreams she had growing up and the vision of an optimistic future are all gone and we have been left staring at a dull body bag.”
Lelethu’s mother, Phumeza Njikazi, said: “My wishes were for her to have a bright future. The only thing I could give her is education. I survive on a state grant.”
Anderson had wanted to be a doctor, said her grandmother, Ernes Anderson, but crime also robbed her of that dream. “She was very brilliant but she dropped out of school before matric after a shooting in her classroom in Mitchells Plain.”
Saphula’s father, Mbulelo Nomgcana, said he left school in grade 7, which had made his life difficult, and he had wanted his daughter to prioritise her education. “She said she wanted to be a pilot. I urged her to work towards that dream.”
Williams’s sister, Sara Kanana, said her sister wanted a job in order to give her son a better life.
Mdidima’s grandmother, Phendulwa Mdidimba, said her granddaughter intended to go back to school next year to finish matric.
“She got distracted from her studies because she went to Marcus Garvey a lot. Children are free to do whatever they want in Marcus Garvey and smoke all sorts of things there,” Phendulwa said.
Last Saturday, five men, including three brothers, were shot dead in separate incidents in Philippi. Western Cape police spokesperson Noloyiso Rwexana said no arrests had been made following the shootings.
Delivering his budget vote speech in parliament on Thursday, police minister Bheki Cele said the army would be sent to fight rampant crime on the Cape Flats.
Western Cape premier Alan Winde said: “This a clear admission that the police have lost control of the war on crime, a fact denied by Cele a mere few days ago.”
– Sunday Times