The Primrose Park Primary School community formed a human chain in Ohio and Vygekraal avenues to demonstrate their pain and to demand justice for the murder of their beloved secretary, Zuraya Barden, on Thursday April 14.
Ms Barden, 61, was shot and killed while driving to school on Friday April 8. Manenberg police confirmed that her killing could be linked to another criminal case. Ms Barden was a witness in another case. Her six-year-old grandson was found physically unharmed on the back seat of her car. No arrests have been made.
On Thursday, pupils, parents and staff gathered outside the school for 30 minutes, most of them dressed in black and holding posters which celebrated her memory, and called for an end to gender-based violence and senseless killings. Some of the pupils chanted: “We demand justice for our beloved secretary.”
The school governing body (SGB) chairperson, Zulfah Williams, said Ms Barden “was the sunshine in the office”.
“She was very friendly and laughed with everybody. She was also stern. I miss her presence. Her office is still locked. That is big boots to fill. We are making a statement this morning. We need to stop these senseless killings. The question remains how do we stop it? The saddest part is that many times the culprits are never caught,” Ms Williams said.
Nadia Jacobs, the SGB treasurer said they don’t want the memory of Ms Barden to ever be forgotten.
“We want to keep her memory alive, and I’d like us to remember her throughout the school’s 50th anniversary celebrations this year. We find it difficult to process her death,” Ms Jacobs added.
School transport driver, Patricia Martin, was also there to show her support.
“I love the children and staff of Primrose Primary very much. Ms Barden’s murder was a big shock to all of us, and I can see how it affected the learners. I pray that God will protect our children and help them heal from this trauma,” she said.
A staff member, who did not want to be named, said some staff members now live in fear when coming to school.
“Ms Barden died a martyr. She was beautiful – inside and out. She was passionate about her job. Hard-working, sincere, straightforward, glamorous, and organised are just some of the words that describe her. She was excited to come to work every day. She was just an all-round stunning woman who was well-loved and this was evident at her funeral,” the staff member said.
Ward 46 councillor, Aslam Cassiem, also came out to show his support.
“This is so sad. We lost a mother-figure in the community and it brings us much grief. I am here to extend my sincere condolences. One of our priorities this term is safety. I will commit as much as possible from the ward allocation budget towards safety initiatives in the ward,” Mr Cassiem said.
Captain Ian Bennett, spokesperson for Manenberg SAPS, encouraged the community to speak out against gender-based violence, as this is often “a silent killer”.
“Ms Barden’s death shattered the tranquillity of a relatively peaceful community. The human chain formed by the school community is a step in the right direction. It speaks volumes in telling the story that enough is enough. The task of eradicating gender-based violence is easier said than done, but I believe the start was made when the community gathered in honour of their beloved school secretary,” he said.