Another young life gone

HAZEL ALLIES-HUSSELMAN

The death of a Hanover Park teenager over the weekend has shaken a group of concerned mothers, prompting them to stage a march on Sunday May 22.

Keegan Smith, 15, was shot in his head in Surburg Road, on Saturday May 21, at about 10pm, when he and his friend were on their way to the shop. His friend escaped unharmed from the alleged drive-by shooting.

Keegan was declared brain dead at Groote Schuur Hospital, and on Sunday May 22, at about 2pm, his mother, Anthea Smith, had to make the difficult decision to switch off the life support machine. Just an hour before Keegan was shot, a 27-year-old man was also shot and killed in St Lucia Court, Hanover Park.

The man was shot in his back and neck, and medics declared him dead on the scene.

Veronchia Engel, who was among the mothers who marched in memory of Keegan, said they had decided “on the spur of the moment” to march and were determined to call for an end to the violence.

“We have had enough of these senseless killings. When we spread the news by word of mouth about our plan to march, the mothers responded overwhelmingly. The shooting must end. Whoever is shooting must sort out their nonsense and stop all of this. Most of us knew Keegan. An innocent boy died, and it could have been one of our children. Keegan was my son’s friend, and he is heartbroken. How does one respond to your child when he asks you: ‘Mommy, why him?’”

Ms Smith said she had been home when she heard the gunshots and instinctively ran outside to see where her son was.

“I first heard a car drive past, and then the gunshots. When I went looking for him, I heard people say Keegan was shot. My child was a sports person. He was a very happy child and he loved to make jokes. He used to joke with us every night before he went to sleep.

“The gangsters just shoot – even if you are not a gangster. If you live in a particular area in Hanover Park considered to be a gang’s territory, then the rival gang just assumes you support that gang. Everyone is at risk,” Ms Smith said.

Speaking about the decision to switch off the life support of her youngest son, she said: “I had to make a choice. I didn’t want him to suffer and be in pain. It was the most difficult decision I ever had to make, but I had to do it for him. It was already heartbreaking to see him like that in hospital.”

During a match on Sunday May 22, his teammates held a minute of silence for Keegan, an avid soccer player.

Friends and family remember Keegan as someone with a bubbly personality and a sense of humour.

Charnelle Hector, a teacher at Belmor Primary School, and also a Hanover Park resident, knew him well.

“Keegan was an outstanding and sincere young man who was always polite and respectful to everyone. When he smiled, you could tell it was genuine and he always greeted people enthusiastically. He was a well-rounded and balanced child who was passionate about school, soccer and also participated in the community Sunday school production.

“When I pass the pitch where they used to play soccer, or pass his usual hangout spots, it breaks my heart, because we will never see him playing soccer again or hear him laughing with his friends. Our community is in mourning for the untimely death of a boy filled with so much promise,” Ms Hector said.

Groenvlei High School teacher Riedwaan Jacobs described Keegan, who was in Grade 9, as a loveable, playful child.

“He was never disrespectful. It is so strange, that when I marked his script on Saturday evening, I smiled, because I pictured his smile – not knowing that at that time, he had been shot. He was loved by all. He had a bubbly personality. Our children at school are traumatised,” Mr Jacobs said.

Meanwhile, the City of Cape Town’s decision to award a R21 million tender to ShotSpotter (Pty) Ltd, to provide acoustic surveillance for gunshot detection in Hanover Park and Manenberg, has been criticised by community leaders. A three-month pilot project for this gunfire detection technology was held in Hanover Park between August 2014 and November 2014, and was hailed by mayoral committee member for safety and security, JP Smith, as making big inroads in the fight against gang violence.

The objectives of the pilot included verifying the system’s ability to reliably and accurately detect and locate gunfire, gathering gunfire data in terms of the number of incidents, shots fired, hot spot locations, and exposing various law enforcement agencies to the technology. The R21 million tender was awarded on Monday March 7, and the technology is expected to be up and running by the end of June.Michael Jacobs, the former Mitchell’s Plain Community Police Forum (CPF) Cluster chairperson and community worker posted his concerns on Facebook.

“So the tender to hear the sounds of bullets flying in Hanover Park and Manenberg has been awarded. It is nice to have all of these presentations and excitement of how many shots recorded but the City’s own results shows that it could not respond to more than 70 percent of actual shots heard due to a lack of manpower and resources.

“How many young people could have been trained to become Metro police members serving in the field? How many vehicles could have been acquired to patrol the areas to increase visible policing?

“Is it sustainable and what is the time frame of it being in operation? How many square kilometres will it cover in both Hanover Park and Manenberg? Anyone in Hanover Park and Manenberg will tell you that a gangster doesn’t stand still after he fired shots and says, Mr JP Smith come and get me I am standing on Plato’s corner. They can hear but they can’t see, and into a taxi or car they jump to Delft, Mitchell’s Plain or Elsies River,” Mr Jacobs’ post reads.

Philippi CPF chairperson, Ebrahim Abrahams, said the ShotSpotter project “is a waste of money”.

“It looks good for the City’s glitz reports, but it will not work if the different authorities are all working in different ways. The City does not want to work with SAPS. Divisions are caused.

“Hanover Park is a hot spot for gang violence and it cannot be wished away, yet authorities are not prepared to work hand-in-hand. Instead they play political games. We have a situation where the neighbourhood watch is being threatened with not getting resources if they work with the CPF, as the CPF and SAPS are considered to be ANC, and the neighbourhood watch is being dictated to by the DA. And because of this crack in leadership – where the CPF, neighbourhood watch, SAPS and Metro Police do not work together – the gangsters are having a field day. We need unity in the structure,” Mr Abrahams said.

Mr Smith, however, rubbished Mr Abrahams’ claims that the City does not want to work with SAPS.

“We are working exceedingly close to SAPS. Claiming that we do not want to work with SAPS shows just how distorted their agenda is. This is not the case at all. We have discussed this extensively with SAPS and they agreed that it is a good idea.

“In the past, SAPS could only respond to one in every eight shooting incidents, and during the pilot, Metro Police could respond to every shooting incident. Gang murder statistics shows that over the past two years it has decreased from 20 percent to 11 percent of murders.

“The people who criticise this is a group of perpetual political malcontents, who have little interest in serving the community. They have a perpetual desire to criticise and the community is struggling to build cohesion because of this. There is incredible infighting and it is destructive,” Mr Smith said.

Responding to why this money could not be used to employ more law enforcement officials, Mr Smith said: “We didn’t have a choice. We cannot use this funding for operational staff, vehicles or buildings. None of it qualified for this grant.”