It took the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) seven months to finalise its probe into the death of nine-year-old Leo Williams who was hit by a police rubber bullet while playing inside a corrugated iron structure. Leo is one of dozens of children who have either died or been injured by stray bullets fired by gangsters or police.
On Tuesday, 30 March, members of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID), the SA Police Service and the public order police descended on Laingville in St Helena Bay. Part of the road was cordoned off to allow investigators to gather technical evidence which is needed by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to finalise the docket in the shooting of nine-year-old Leo Williams.
Investigators reenacted the events that unfolded on Friday, 31 July 2020, when Leo was playing inside a corrugated iron structure and was hit in the head by a rubber bullet fired by police. Fragments of the bullet were lodged in his brain. He died two weeks later in Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital in Cape Town.
Community leader Thyrone Williams, accompanying an IPID member at the scene, said: “Investigators measured the distance from where the shots were fired into the corrugated structure. The IPID investigator told me they would fire the same rubber bullet that claimed the life of Leo over the same distance into a similar corrugated plate to see if they get the same results.”
Leo’s legal guardian, Cathy Thomas, told Maverick Citizen the presence of investigators in the area where he was shot had opened old wounds.
“While they were busy, the image of my son lying in a pool of blood appeared before me. Leo was just an innocent child playing inside his home. I’m just glad that the investigation has reached its final stages.”
While Leo’s case seems to be making progress, there are others who have allegedly been shot by police rubber bullets who are still waiting for IPID to finalise their cases.
One of these cases dates back to 23 April 2020, when Siyasanga Gijana, from an informal settlement in Philippi, lost an eye. She was getting water from a tap in her yard when she heard gunshots. Gijana only realised she had been hit when she saw blood coming out of her right eye. In November 2020, IPID indicated that it was looking into the matter.
Manenberg activist Roegchanda Pascoe, who is in hiding after her high court testimony against a known gangster resulted in him receiving a long prison sentence, said it was sad to see how many innocent children were either killed by gangsters or died as a result of police actions.
In February, two Mitchells Plain High School students were killed and three others wounded in a drive-by shooting in Beacon Valley. According to police, the children were standing at a street corner when unknown gunmen in an unmarked car appeared and indiscriminately fired shots.
This double murder was followed by the killing of a 15-year-old girl in Lotus River. She was sitting outside her Eland Avenue home when she was hit by a stray bullet.
In the most recent incident, four-year-old Chloe van der Westhuizen was hit in the head by a bullet on Thursday, 25 March, in Algoa Court, Hanover Park. She was returning from aftercare when she was caught in the crossfire. The shooting cost her an eye.
Pascoe said: “Whether our children are killed in crossfire or by a police rubber bullet, it’s all the same. This is a war with no rules that our children are facing on a daily basis. There is no forewarning.
“It is time that witnesses who turn a blind eye come to the table and identify the shooters who, in some cases, are their own children,” she said.
Walking to church or even walking with your children to school has become a nightmare for thousands of parents, she said, adding that no one knows when or where the shooting will start.
On parents who allow their children to play in parks or in the streets, Pascoe said: “It is a very dangerous decision because it might be their child’s last play in the street or park. Our parks have become the meeting place for gangsters and a single street separates gangsters.
“So when the shooting starts in gang-ravaged areas, a bullet will hit somebody sitting in front of his house, playing in the street or yard, or someone reading a book in a Wendy house.
“The best thing to do when the shooting starts in places like Manenberg, Mitchells Plain, Elsies River, Lavender Hill, Bonteheuwel and Valhalla Park is to sit flat on the floor or lie next to the bed.
“Please keep your children indoors over the Easter weekend.” DM/MC