‘Are you happy now?’

Pictured are Ashlines grandparents, Mervin Telmarks, left, with his wife Rachel Telmarks.

Five-year-old Ashline Telmarks might no longer be able to play with her friends in the park after she was shot last Tuesday, allegedly by members of the Ghettos gang.

Ashline was playing in the park near her home when four members of the Ghettos gang reportedly opened fire into Algoa Court where Ashline stays with her grandparents. The shooting occurred just before 8pm on Tuesday January 24.

Her grandfather, Mervin Telmarks, who was playing with her outside, said he went inside for less than a minute when he heard about seven gunshots going off. He ran outside and heard the neighbours shouting that his grandchild had been shot.

According to Mr Telmarks, Ashline and her friends made a run for the nearest flat in the court when they heard the gunshots but she didn’t get away fast enough and she was shot.

“I came inside for just a minute when I heard the gunshots. I ran outside and heard them saying it’s my grandchild who was shot.

“I picked her up and ran to the corner and then one of the neighbours took us to Heideveld day hospital. There was no one in here in the court for them to shoot at. How can they be so stupid to just shoot like that?” said Mr Telmarks.

At the hospital doctors said Ashline needed to be taken to Red Cross Children’s Hospital because she had already lost a lot of blood.

Doctors operated on the little girl for about five hours and was due to operate on Thursday January 26 again.

“I feel like going over to them and asking if they are happy now that they have shot a child but then I think, no rather leave it. I just hope that she recovers and there is no damage to her body. She is such a free-spirited child who loves to talk and runs around all the time. She was such a strong child, if she got hurt she would never cry,” Mr Telmarks said.

Mr Telmarks added that Ashline is a very friendly child who visited everyone and everyone in the area loved her.

Doctors have told Ashline’s mother, Merletha Telmarks, that her kidney, lung, intestines and her spine had been injured in the shooting. They told Ms Telmarks that chances of her daughter walking again were slim because she had no feeling under her feet. She said her daughter was being kept on morphine because of the amount of pain that she was in.

“I don’t know how to deal with this, I don’t even feel like bringing her back to Hanover Park when she is out of hospital. The doctors told me that if she needs to be put into a wheelchair they will help me with another school and that there is therapy at the hospital,” she said.

Darren Francis, assistant director of communications for the provincial Department of Health, confirmed Ashline was in a critical but stable condition. On Monday January 30, Mr Telmarks told the Athlone News that on Sunday, Ashline had started speaking and eating but was short of breath because the bullet had ruptured her lung.

Lieutenant Lance Goliath, spokesman for Philippi police station, said the motive behind the shooting was unknown. “It is yet to be determined if the incident was gang related. Residents in the vicinity are urged to come forward and make a statement. Police are investigating a case of attempted murder. No arrests have been made,” he said.

Ashline is currently in Grade R at Summit Primary School in Hanover Park. Mogamat Farhaan Isaacs, principal of the school, is a close friend of the family as Ashline’s grandmother Rachel Telmark, also attended Summit Primary School.

Mr Isaacs said Ashline’s family had been very close to the school over the years and remained loyal friends of the school. He said he was deeply hurt by the incident and wished Ashline a speedy recovery.

“We are all devastated about what has happened. Shooting has been going on since the first day of school. When a parent walks into your office and tells you that their child has been shot it hurts you quite deeply. We have sent out a newsletter in which we express our sincere prayers to the family and to show our support. Her teacher and friends are just waiting on her condition to be stabilised so that they can visit her,” he said.

Mr Isaacs added that it had been an emotional roller-coaster for him and the school. “You don’t expect Grade R pupils to be talking about how she got shot. Her classmates and teacher are traumatised by the shooting. A psychologist has visited the school to explain what has happened because the Grade Rs don’t understand how their friend could have been shot. We have been liaising with the education department about more safety features at our school before more children get shot,”’ he added.

Mr Telmarks said something needed to be done about the gangsterism in the area. “Why doesn’t the government take them and offer them learnerships or recruit them into the navy so that they can shoot there legally because some of them will be interested, then at least they will be fighting for the country instead of shooting at each other,” he said.

In December last year the Athlone News reported on the killing of Rimeez Caetano, who was shot and killed a day after the end of the annual international 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children Campaign (“Another child shot in crossfire”, Athlone News, December 14 2016).

The 11-year-old’s life was snuffed out when he got caught in the crossfire between the G-Unit and Hard Livings gangs. He was shot and killed on Sunday December 11, after 11am, while playing soccer with his friends in front of his grandmother’s house in 8th Avenue, Bokmakierie. According to Rimeez’s friends, who were playing soccer with him, they heard gunshots before one of his friends, who was standing in front of him, noticed that Rimeez had been shot. As the friends ran for cover into Rimeez’s grandmother’s house, the boy followed, but collapsed in the passage and later died on his way to Groote Schuur Hospital.

In May last year we also reported on the killing of six-year-old Saadiqah Lippert from Kewtown who was shot in front of her grandmother’s house in 9th Avenue on Monday May 2 (“Bokmakierie on tenterhooks”, Athlone News, May 11 2016). The Grade 1 Garlandale Primary School pupil, was getting ready to go home after spending the weekend at her grandmother Kamiela Lippert’s house.

It was around 7pm, when Saadiqah and her cousin were waiting outside for their grandmother to take them home to Saadiqah’s mother’s home in Kewtown when unknown men ran by and opened fire, shooting the little girl in her stomach. Saadiqah was rushed to Groote Schuur Hospital where doctors worked hard to save the little girl. She was put on life support after a few hours but died during the early hours of the next morning.

Anyone with information about Ashline’s shooting can contact the investigation officer Detective Warrant Officer Ronald Koopman on 021 690 1517 or 073 171 6154.