Teen killed in crossfire

Octavia Johannessen, 16, was killed in crossfire while walking to her aunt in Howick Court, Hanover Park, on Tuesday August 15.

The Hanover Park Civic Association has called on people to join them by the thousands as they plan to march to the Philippi police station on Saturday August 26.

This comes in the wake of another innocent life lost, when Octavia Johannessen, 16, was shot and killed in the crossfire while walking to her aunt’s house in Howick Court on the evening of Tuesday August 15.

Her family said Octavia had gone to a nearby tuckshop and was on her way to her aunt, when the shooting started. She tried to run for cover but was caught in the crossfire. She collapsed on the pavement, and paramedics declared her dead on the scene.

The planned march of the Hanover Park Civic Association will happen on the same morning that Octavia’s body will be laid to rest.

Nawaal Nazier, the civic association’s spokeswoman, said so many innocent people, and especially children, got hurt or killed because of gang violence.

“We cannot allow that these senseless killings of our children to continue any longer. We have a right to be safe and protected as a community. The civic is fed up with SAPS, the Department of Community Safety and the community police forum (CPF).

“Our people are too scared to go to the shops. Innocent children die. They don’t care if you are not a gangster,” she said.

Ms Nazier said: “If you live in a particular area where their rival gang holds the territory, then they shoot to kill anybody that dares to walk outside of that ‘territory’.

“On Saturday, we are going to the people who are supposed to protect us. What is happening is not right – we are just fed up.”

Muriel George, a member of the Hanover Park Women’s Development Forum, said the volatile situation in the community was sad.

Earlier this year, the forum invited Human Rights Commissioner Chris Nissen to listen to the pleas of mothers who had lost their children to gang violence.

They felt their human rights were being violated, and that justice was not served, as, in many of the cases, no-one had been arrested, or the justice system was flawed.

“On Thursday August 17, we held a vigil in memory of Octavia in Howick Court,” said Ms George.

“It was arranged by the Ministers’ Fraternal, and it was well attended. Hundreds of people gathered to honour her life.

“It seems that the justice system is failing us, and it is for that reason that we called on the Human Rights Commissioner’s help.

“It is our human right to be safe.

“In July, we had a follow-up meeting with the mothers, and Mr Nissen arranged for the Department of Community Safety, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), the Department of Social Development, Legal Aid, and, of course, the Human Rights Commissioner himself, to be there. Mr Nissen did this, as he feels we need an integrated approach when it comes to justice for these mothers.

“As the Hanover Park Women’s Development Forum, what we do now, is show support to all the women who lost their children,” Ms George said.

Octavia’s sister, Ashca Johannessen, said she would always remember her sister as “a funny girl who liked to make jokes and laugh”.

Ashca added: “She was also a people’s person and could make friends very easily. Octavia played netball for Blue Birds Netball Club.”

“Whenever I felt down – or not in the mood for anything – she will come with her ways try to make a joke to cheer you up, and she actually got it right.

“She also loved to dance. I still remember the Friday before the incident, when she was twerking for my friend and me. We wanted to make a video, but she refused.

“The things I will miss most about her is when she just comes out of the blue and starts teasing the little ones. Then, when all the small ones cry, I have to make them quiet.

“Whenever my mother started dishing up food for everyone, she will always remain in the kitchen, and when my mom asks, ‘Hoekom staan jy dan nog? Hier is jou kos,’ then she will respond by saying, ‘Mammie, die kos is te min; skep nog by.’ She really ate a lot.”

Octavia was a Grade 9 pupil at Crystal High School, and her death has shocked many. Her family home was a hive of activity, as classmates and teachers visited her family to pay their respects.

Jessica Shelver, spokeswoman for Education MEC Debbie Schafer, said the department had arranged counselling at the school.