‘Expose the criminals’

Bethelsdorp residents urged to break their silence after bloodbath

Police leave the Booysen Park home where the shooting occurred
Police leave the Booysen Park home where the shooting occurred
Image: Eugene Coetzee

“How many more people must die before something gets done?”

This anguished plea followed the death of three youngsters in a bloodbath in Port Elizabeth’s crime-ridden northern areas on Friday night.

Ruaan Willemse, 8, Deacon van Rooyen, 14, and Chadwin Calvert, 17, were visiting at a house in Booysen Park, Bethelsdorp when they were mowed down just after 9pm.

Ruaan and Deacon died at the scene, while Chadwin died in hospital later.

It is believed all three were shot in the head.

Four other people inside the house, aged between 24 and 36, were wounded, one of them seriously.

Deacon’s devastated father, Angelo Sharpe, 43, struggling to deal with the death of his only son, urged residents on Sunday to stand up against criminals and share information with the police which could help stop further unnecessary deaths.

The grade 8 Booysen Park High School pupil had moved down from Cape Town four years ago, where he had lived with his mother.

“[Deacon] was a real people’s person, a very nice person who never mixed with the wrong crowd.

“He did very well academically,” Sharpe said.

He said the people in the northern areas, and especially Booysen Park, had to expose the gangsters and criminals.

“We can’t just sit back and watch and accept what happens here,” he said.

“This could happen to anyone. People need to come forward with information and hand it to the police.”

Neighbour Fatima Fortune, left, Deacon van Rooyen’s father Angelo Sharpe and Spasie Bantom, the grandmother of Chadwin Calvert
Neighbour Fatima Fortune, left, Deacon van Rooyen’s father Angelo Sharpe and Spasie Bantom, the grandmother of Chadwin Calvert
Image: Eugene Coetzee

The motive for the attack on the house at the corner of Capulet and Heratio streets remains unclear, but police spokesperson Colonel Priscilla Naidu said investigators were searching for two men.

She said the two gunmen kicked down the front door, ripped a gold necklace from the neck of a 26-year-old man inside and took two cellphones, before – for no apparent reason – opening fire.

Chadwin’s grandmother, Spasie Bantom, 59, said her grandson – who died in hospital on Saturday night – had never been involved in anything bad and had been a regular churchgoer.

“My heart is very sore. Our children die in such circumstances – it doesn’t make sense.

“I didn’t do anything to anyone, why would they do this to my [grandson]? Why?” the shattered granny said.

Deacon’s uncle, Ruwayne Leppan, who was called to what he described as a very chaotic scene, had to then fetch Sharpe from Booysen Park High School, where he is a security patroller.

“No-one could give us any information,” he said.

“The paramedics were bringing out the injured people, but not [Deacon].

“There were a lot of people. I just wanted to know if [Deacon] was OK.”

Fatima Fortune, 44, a neighbour in Sharpe’s street, said what had happened was horrific and there were no words to explain it. “They were not people who would hurt anyone,” she said.

“Our children’s lives are at stake here – it is so unfair.

“We have to keep our children captive in our homes [for their own safety].

“We can’t allow them to do normal things like playing outside – it is too dangerous.”

On Saturday, a crowd of nearly 100 people including police, members of the Bethelsdorp Community Policing Forum and Citizens Against Crime, as well as Sector Police members, had gathered outside the house to try to piece together events and restore calm.

Bethelsdorp Community Policing Forum chair Karen Kemp said it was unclear if the incident was robbery-related or a targeted shooting.

She said a shot had also been fired at a car parked outside the house, but no-one had been inside at the time.

“We are trying to encourage community members to join neighbourhood watch groups and different forums, not to act as police but to call us when they need help or if they have information to share,” Kemp said. “We are frustrated with the shortage [of resources].

“How many more people must die before something gets done?”

Citizens Against Crime Forum member Sulaiman Plaatjies said the residents were “gatvol” of the shootings in the area.

But most were too afraid to come forward with information.

“People are too afraid to talk. Once you talk, you have put a target on your head.

“However, people have had enough.”

Police minister Bheki Cele, who was in Port Elizabeth on Thursday for the launch of the SAPS Safer Festive Season Operation in Motherwell, said the rollout of the anti-gang unit in Cape Town on Friday was a precursor for the rest of SA, including Port Elizabeth.

Cele said on Sunday that the strategy for the rollout of the unit was “in the president’s hands”, adding that President Cyril Ramaphosa had specifically mentioned the northern areas as one of the gang hotspots that had to be tackled.

“The rollout will be countrywide – everywhere that there are gang problems.

“Expect it to happen [in Port Elizabeth] in the next few months,” he said.

Naidu said the motive for the attack was still unclear and there was no evidence at this point of gang involvement.

She confirmed that additional manpower had been deployed to the area since the shooting, including a visible gang intervention unit.

Members of the provincial and national police’s intervention teams would also be deployed in the next two months, she said.

A resident, who did not want to be named, said she felt trapped. “It’s [shootings] a 24hour stress – I have a constant knot in my stomach, worried about my children.

“The gangsters keep the entire northern areas hostage – whether you go to church, shop or work.

“The authorities expect us to do something – but we can’t even defend ourselves.”