‘Hyper-trauma’: Another young life lost, more desperate pleas in gangland
'Children saw someone die in front of them on Friday and 24 hours later they were playing on the spot where they saw him get killed'
A four-year-old child was one of the first people to see Gift of the Givers volunteer Ameerodien Noordien’s body lying on the ground with blood oozing from the gunshot wounds he sustained in a gang shooting on Friday.
“Our community is living in hyper-trauma! Children saw someone die in front of them on Friday and 24 hours later they were playing on the spot where they saw him get killed,” a young Hanover Park resident said, her voice shaking as she pleaded with Police Minister Bheki Cele for help.
Cele took questions from the public on Monday, under a large tent erected by the Gift of the Givers foundation, for which 28-year-old Noordien volunteered.
Cele’s response to the resident was telling. “To you, there’s not much I can say. The police are only a temporary measure. Kids should not be playing in the streets ... ”
Before he could continue, a plethora of desperate voices drowned out the speakers at the public media conference, with residents shouting: “There are no parks!”
“Exactly! That is what I’m trying to say,” Cele quickly responded.
Flanking him were his generals and community leaders and on the far corner of the table, Noordien’s father, Alwi, who was bent over double with his face in his hands.
Cele announced the creation of a new gang unit called the “Anti-Gang Unit” which will be launched in Hanover Park this month. But he has admitted there is no simple solution for the scourge of gang violence on the Cape Flats.
Mardia George, a retired teacher who has spent her life in Hanover Park, cried when she pleaded with Cele to make a point of addressing police corruption.
She told Times Select she had given the Philippi East police commander a list of names of police officers who allegedly received money from drug dealers.
Speaking to residents, it became clear that the officers’ identities, and the identity of the 22-year-old man who allegedly killed Noordien on Friday, are an open secret.
Noordien, 20, was part of a group of volunteers who had been helping farming communities in dire need of drought assistance since last year. They delivered water and fodder to farmers on the verge of capitulation, and to towns including Beaufort West where the taps ran dry long ago.
On Friday morning, Noordien helped the Gift of the Givers to pack water into trucks destined for Beaufort West. The previous day they had returned from a relief mission to farmers in the Eastern Cape, delivering fodder.
Fatimah, Noordien’s mother, said that after he came home from Friday’s work, he kissed her and told her he loved her, a small ritual more often practised by sons going to war rather than simply crossing the street where they grew up.
“He came home and he said: ‘Mammie, I’m just going to wash quickly’. After he washed he came to me and said: ’Mammie, I love you very much, Mammie, I’m just going to the shop quickly’, and he went out of the front door. That’s the last time I saw him,” said Fatimah.
In his short time with Gift of the Givers Noordien made an impression on the communities he worked in. His manager, Ali Sablay, said the farmers had launched a fundraising effort to help the family, particularly Fatimah who needs medication for chronic kidney disease.
Alwi buckled under the grief of losing his eldest son. “My son knows more people than I have ever known from far places. They can talk and say what kind of a young man he was, a very good young man,” he said.
“I will never forget him, he’s always in my heart. May Allah protect him, we give him unto your hands, Allah, accept him! We’ll miss him very much. I love him very much.”
As Cele disappeared in his motorcade an older generation of retired gang members emerged onto the streets.
One of them told Times Select the young man who killed Noordien had been terrorising their street since August 5 last year when he shot his 18-year-old son, who had been in a rival gang.
“He has been on a killing spree for a year now. Everyone knows who he is, he is always the one shooting at us,” said the man, who did not want to be named.
He and two fellow former gang members said they were now at the mercy of boys as young as nine who controlled their lives through gunfire fuelled by tik.
“When we leave here it will be a young laatie who will come and ask me: ‘What were you saying to that man?’” he said.
Noordien was not part of a gang – even the gang members testify to that – but his crime was that he was born in a neighbourhood surrounded by a dozen warring gangs.
Everyone in the street on Friday was a legitimate target, according to the shooter. Four people were shot in that incident.
On Thursday, another Gift of the Givers volunteer, Matthew Delport, and his girlfriend were walking in the street, trying to cross territory controlled by a different gang. A young man ran up to them and fired six rounds, wounding his girlfriend.
Noordien had expressed concern in the past about the situation, according to his friend, Ryan Matthews.
“He said this place is not right, one of these days it’s going to be one of us who they shoot dead. The next night, it was he who was lying here,” said Matthews.
Farmers set up fund for family
The drought relief coordinator for Gift of the Givers, Hester Obermeyer, said farmers would break down in tears when Noordien and his team of volunteers arrived with trucks filled with feed.
"Grown men are in tears every time. The farmers have run out of cash reserves. Their finances have capitulated. When those trucks rolled onto the feeding pens they didn't just bring fodder, they brought hope," said Obermeyer.
"Ameerodien was very quiet, very soft."
He had often expressed the wish to "get out" and "buy a house of my own".
She said farmers were in absolute shock when they learnt of his death.
"When we started spreading the message on the WhatsApp groups ... the farmers were in shock.
"They asked if they could do something. We've set up a fund with Gift of the Givers and mercifully the money has been streaming in. Some people made individual donations, and some communities started fundraising," she said.
"If Ameerodien's death brought more attention to the gang violence on the Cape Flats then he didn't die in vain."