Gang violence claims 6-year-old who wanted to be a policeman


Eunice Scholtz-Masson

Six-year-old Zakariyah Noble wanted to become a policeman so that he could put the thugs behind bars. However, his young life was cut short when a stray bullet hit him in the chest in Hanover Park in Cape Town on Monday (October 16).

Gang fights on the Cape Flats have increased drastically in the past few weeks in areas such as Manenberg and Hanover Park. The mayoral committee member for community safety and security, JP Smith, described the sudden increase in shooting incidents as typical of a full-scale war zone.

Over a period of three days, a total of 618 gunshots were recorded during 251 shooting incidents in Manenberg, Lavender Hill, Hanover Park and Nyanga by the City of Cape Town’s gunshot identification system, ShotSpotter.

One of these shots fatally hit the young Zakariyah in the chest.

ShotSpotter is a multi-million rand project of the City of Cape Town and involves technology that identifies gunshots the moment they are fired. The information is passed directly to police and local law enforcement to respond to the incident as soon as possible. It operates in four areas on the Cape Flats.

Family in mourning

Kasifah Morkel (49) sits on her neighbour’s sofa while she chats with RNews. Outside her own apartment, family, friends, teachers, schoolmates and community members gathered to attend Zakariyah’s janaazah, a Muslim funeral.

Zakariyah was like a grandchild to Morkel. In the afternoons, Morkel waited for him when his lift dropped him off outside Etoshiahof after school. Then she would look after him until his parents finished working.

“He would always say I should come and get him the moment his transport dropped him off in the afternoons,” recalls Morkel, before raw emotion overwhelms her. After all, this past Monday, shortly before he was shot, she was not there to wait for him in parental habit.

Earlier in the day she offered to help a friend at her house and after school Zakariyah went with his uncle to a nearby house to collect laundry. On the way back, the uncle stopped at a friend’s house where they sat outside and talked. There were many children playing outside, says Morkel.

A fight between the Ghetto and OTF gangs flared up again and Zakariyah was wounded in the chest by a stray bullet.

“The doctors said he was going to be fine. But then his condition took a bad turn. Half an hour later, the family was told he didn’t make it.”

Shortly after his death, a video was circulated in which Zakariyah, much to the amusement of his classmates, explained how one day he was going to become a policeman to “bad guys” to put in prison.

Four days after Zakariyah’s death, three suspects between 20 and 30 years old were arrested for his murder.

Drugs fuel violence

According to community members, who wish to remain anonymous for security reasons, the shooters were members of the OTF gang. The OTF, which stands for “All for the Family” or “All for the Firm”, consists of former Ghetto members who have formed their own group.

While infighting between large groups such as the Americans in Hanover Park has already claimed the lives of dozens of gang members and children, the current war between the various groups is understood to be to gain total drug control.

In addition, the OTF is also said to have strong ties to the so-called criminal enterprise, The Firm, and the alleged underworld figure, Ralph Stanfield. The criminal enterprise, which is linked to the 28 gang, was in the spotlight again last week when the state argued in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court that Stanfield had close links with The Firm.

The alleged high-profile gang figure and his wife, Nicole Stanfield, were arrested on September 29 in Constantia on charges of, among other things, fraud. Stanfield, along with accomplices, also stand trial on charges of robbery and attempted murder.

During a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, the Western Cape government expressed concern about the weeks-long violence that prevails over large parts of the Cape Flats.

“It is disturbing,” said the province’s premier, Alan Winde, referring to the increasing violence. He believes that the police’s crime intelligence is “practically non-existent” to prevent these “atrocities”.

“As a province, we have the right to know where the South African police service’s detective work stands and what is being done to tackle shortcomings within crime intelligence.”

Winde reiterated the local government’s request to the national government to give more policing powers to provincial law enforcement. He told his cabinet that the province needs more power to act against factors that influence crime.

The Western Cape MEC for police oversight and community safety, Reagen Allen, has indicated that he intends to hold a meeting with the provincial senior management of the South African Police Service (SAPS) to discuss policing deficits in an effort to secure communities.