Rampant gang wars in the spotlight as child is shot in Cape Town suburb
Children are known for dodging and ducking skipping ropes on the streets, but in Cape Town’s Bokmakierie suburb they dodge and duck bullets.
Six-year-old Brionay Julies is in excruciating pain at the Red Cross Hospital. She had been sent to a local shop and was shot at the gate when she returned.
On top of the burden of poverty that her unemployed parents bear, they constantly worry about their children’s safety.
Police minister Bheki Cele visited the family in their two-roomed backyard shack, which is home to two adults and six children. The family relies on a meagre child support grant, from which they have to fork out R300 for rent.
Brionay’s mother, Gail, 41, narrated the ordeal.
"Brionay came running in and said her friend hit her with a brick," said Gail.
"We pulled her pants down and realised she had been shot. She was in shock. I asked my cousin to call an ambulance and when I went outside I saw a police car. They rushed me and the child to Red Cross Hospital."
Gail said gangsters have taken siege of the community. And on Saturday her worst nightmare happened.
"I was inside the house when I heard the gunshots and asked my husband 'where are my children?' - and then Brionay rushed inside in a state,” she said.
"She is still traumatised. Every time I visit her in hospital she asks me not to leave her alone. She always clings on to me. She says, 'Mommy there is the uncle with the red top.' She said one of the guys got out of the car - she didn’t even see his face - pulled the trigger and shot her."
Brionay said the man who shot her was wearing red clothing.
It might take a while for the grade 1 pupil to fully recover and go back to school. Her parents were to inform her teacher about the shooting before Cele’s visit. Her tiny maroon uniform hung on a line outside her home.
"I want justice because I am scared. All my children are traumatised. Sometimes the gangs shoot each other at 11pm; they even run over our roofs," said Gail.
John Julies blamed himself for sending the child to the shop. He said children in the area are being robbed of their childhood.
"They are held hostage. This happened here, right in front of the gate," he said.
"I thank God she is alive, the bullet did not hit her upper body. A street is for everyone, especially children."
He said it’s getting worse. "Sometimes I jump off the bed when I hear shots. I am always worried that the bullets will come through."
Cele said the man who had been taken in for questioning in connection with the shooting had been released. He said police were now focusing on another man whose car had been seized.
"We have identified the man we want," said Cele. "We are on his back, we have confiscated the car and we know who we want now in terms of this case. The story is even worse because the father is blaming himself. He feels that if he had not sent the kid to the shop she would not have been injured. That puts pressure on the police and the government to say, 'We can’t live in an environment where kids are locked in because of criminality and gangsterism'."
Cele said his crime fighting efforts were yielding success in some areas but "we would be much happier if we don’t have to come for the death, especially of children killed by stray bullets".