Keeping hope alive for Shasha

Sandra November’s right arm is partially paralysed – the same arm her daughter, Shasha-Lee, used to love to sleep in.

It has been two years since Shasha-Lee’s disappearance, and the stress of it all took its toll on her mother, who was left partially paralysed after a stroke last year.

On Wednesday May 3, the second anniversary of her disappearance, an organisation called Women 2 Women, arranged a vigil outside the November family home in Groenall Walk, Hanover Park.

Shasha-Lee was six years old when she went missing while playing with friends close to her home.

An extensive search was conducted shortly after she went missing, but two years later, there are no new clues or tip-offs.

Ms November, 46, said since her child’s disappearance, she has had difficulty sleeping.

“Even though it has been two years, the wound is still gaping. I often wonder where my child could be. Since Shasha went missing, I scold my four other children a lot. I have become overprotective, and they don’t appreciate that. What made things worse for me, is that one of my sons is involved with gangs. I am so stressed. Last year I had a stroke,” the softly spoken Ms November said.

She added, however, that she remained hopeful that her child would be found.

Speaking about the community’s support and the vigil Women 2 Women arranged, Ms November said: “I appreciate everything they have done. It is events like these that gives me the strength to go on, and not to give up hope.”

Charnelle Hector, a teacher at Belmor Primary School, where Shasha-Lee was a Grade 1 pupil at the time of her disappearance, said she too, would remain hopeful.

Ms Hector was among the guest speakers at the vigil.

Addressing the crowd who gathered, Ms Hector said: “Let’s keep the faith, keep on praying, hoping and believing that Shasha-Lee will come back. Even though we don’t have all the answers, God is able to do exceedingly and abundantly more than what we ask for.”

Dessie Rechner, the director of the Pink Ladies, an organisation dedicated to finding missing people, told those at the vigil that she was still convinced that somebody from the community knew what happened to Shasha-Lee.

She urged the community not to wait before they filed a missing person’s report at the police station, as there was no waiting period to do so.

Lucinda Evans, the newly appointed Mitchell’s Plain Community Police Forum (CPF) cluster chairperson, said while she and her Lavender Hill community searched for Rene-Tracey Roman, 13, who went missing on Friday March 10, they had come across houses being used as “pella pozzies” – a place where children hung out in order to skip school. Rene-Tracey’s body was found in a neighbour’s wendy house on Tuesday March 21, and Andrew Plaatjies has been arrested for her murder.

Addressing the Hanover Park residents, Ms Evans said: “The child is dressed for school, but never goes to school. The child’s parents are at work, and don’t know about this.

“We all know about these ‘pella pozzies’. We have 110 people, ordinary mothers and fathers like you, who have formed the Rene Roman Search and Rescue Group, and they now go knock on the doors of these houses where our children hang out during school hours, and they are taking their children back. I encourage Hanover Park to do the same.

“We will train you. Gone are the days that a social worker says there is nothing they can do. Human trafficking is big in South Africa.”

The Mitchell’s Plain CPF cluster covers Athlone, Philippi, Lansdowne, Grassy Park, Steenberg, Mitchell’s Plain, Strandfontein and Lentegeur police stations.

Lieutenant-Colonel Desmond Laing from Philippi SAPS shared some safety tips with the children. He also had some stern words for parents, urging them to take photographs of their children, in case it is needed when reporting a missing child.

“We are in the process of losing a generation, as drugs and gangsterism are busy destroying young people from 16 to 25 years of age. I know there are some of you who drink alcohol or use drugs, and should you find your child missing after waking up from your ‘tiep’, don’t hide that fact – report your child missing immediately,” Lieutenant-Colonel Laing said.

Yaseen Johaar, who represented Women 2 Women at the event, said the group was started by women who were all going through some challenges.”The group focusses on gender-based violence, bullying, and missing persons. All our services are free and all the members work as volunteers after-hours, as we all have full-time jobs.

“We assist by referring people to institutions that can help them – especially those seeking shelter.”

Women 2 Women can be contacted at 073 639 7554.