‘It’ll be another Westbury’: Ignored suburb cleans up its koppie of death
With violent crime soaring, Eldorado Park residents are getting desperate
The koppie in Eldorado Park is a constant, painful reminder to the community of the murder and rape of one of their young girls, and their everyday struggle with crime.
The “broken” body of Shaynice Talla, 4, was found shoved down a drain on the koppie near her home in the Johannesburg South suburb on September 27 2017. A relative was arrested for her murder a few weeks later.
It’s on this very koppie where, 18 years ago, the body of Shaynice’s 6-year-old cousin Makayla Lee was found – raped and then murdered.
Community members say they were promised a cleanup of land between Mapelaberg and Mahonie roads in Extension 2, the stretch of the notorious koppie.
Residents had been calling for a cleanup of the land earmarked for government housing more than 20 years ago, but Shaynice’s death was the last straw. Last week Saturday, locals gathered on the koppie for a candlelight vigil a year after her death.
City of Johannesburg health and social development MMC Mpho Phalatse promised to come back and clear the area so criminals would no longer use it for nefarious activities.
But the community says nothing has been done since, accusing the city of using Shaynice’s death for political grandstanding.
Instead, the community has started to clean the patch of land themselves, clearing away debris and putting up a memorial for Shaynice.
Eldorado Park neighbourhood watch member Leonardo Green said it was a matter of time before the community saw the same violence as Westbury. “We are dying here and the police are doing nothing.”
Green was chairperson of Section 2 CPF, but said the unit had to be dissolved after a hit was carried out on his colleague Shane Isaacs, 38, on June 26. “Two men waited for him to come home. They walked up to his car and shot him nine times in the chest. Two days later another one of our members was shot at. He went into hiding.”
The incidents occurred after the CPF were involved in a big drug bust on June 8. “That put the mark on our backs.
“We now concentrate on educating the community against crime. If government doesn’t start stepping in here, I promise you it will become another Westbury.”
Ward councillor Fazel Jaffer said crime in the area was out of control. “Two weeks ago a 15-year-old boy was killed in crossfire between druglords at the flats [Extension 2].
“We see shootings [and] muggings here every day. Last week we tore down a lolly lounge [shack used for drug taking] on that koppie. The community just needs the area taken care of.
“Crime is winning here. I don’t see much improvement since her death. We really need the community to participate to make Eldos safe. I don’t really blame them [community members] for not being involved; there is just such a lack of trust in police and in the justice system. We see people arrested then released the very next day. It’s not the police’s fault either. They are so underresourced and they work in such a large area.”
The councillor blames rampant drug use for the crime in the area. According to the police’s latest crime statistics, Eldorado Park experienced these crimes in 2017/2018:
Murder – 50
Sexual offences – 109
Attempted murder – 48
Assault with intent to inflict grievous bodily harm – 605
Robbery with aggravating circumstances – 483
Drug-related crime – 2,237
Eldorado Park Local Drug Action Committee chairperson Cheryl Pillay has been working with Shaynice’s family.
The DNA evidence was processed and released to the family a year after her body was laid to rest. It showed Shaynice was raped by her 22-year-old assailant before he bludgeoned her with a rock.
“At the end of the month, the trial will finally get under way. The family just wants closure. We thought this would be a high–priority case, but nobody is really interested in the life of a child in Eldorado Park. But community members have been really helpful.”
Spokesperson Dominic Mahlangu said the Joburg metro police (JMPD) and the SAPS continuously had joint operations across the city to deal with crime and safety matters.
“Eldorado Park is one such area that our law-enforcement agencies [JMPD, SAPS] police. It is a continuous programme.”
He said the MMC had interacted with her colleagues and stated the community had raised issues regarding the open land that needed clearing.
“PikitUp, Joburg Park and Zoo and other units of the city continue to clear land and maintain open spaces. The area the community is referring to is but one of many that continue to be serviced by the city.”
He said the city was battling with illegal dumping in open spaces and various programmes had been initiated to curb such.
“The MMC would not be in a position to know what were the plans 20 years ago, and currently in her portfolio as health and social development MMC she does not deal with land or development programmes in the city.”
The police did not respond to queries...