Maverick Citizen: Cape Town’s Gang War
Confronting her son’s suspected killer brings mother peace
‘He was the centre of my life — he used to always sit on my lap. I miss him so much.’ Shanaaz Theunissen smiles through the tears, even though her heart is breaking. ‘He was always “My Naasief”.’ Theunissen pauses. ‘You know, he would have been 21 years old.’
Theunissen’s Naasief, 18, became another statistic on 30 October 2016 in the senseless and bloody Cape Flats gang war when a gangster shot him after Naasief had bought milk at a local shop.
“He didn’t have a chance. He was part of a gang initiation where a new member has to shoot an innocent person to show his allegiance to the gang. He was approaching a corner when this man approached him and opened fire. Naasief didn’t stand a chance, he died with his hands in the air while asking — ‘Why are you shooting me, I am not a gangster. They shot him in his side, in his shoulder and twice in the head.”
Naasief was left sprawled under a blanket on the pavement in Rocklands, Mitchells Plain when Theunissen got to the scene. “I lifted the blanket and saw a smile on his face. It was like someone sleeping, I saw a smile.”
Theunissen says she has only beautiful memories of her son who did a lot for the sick and elderly in the community, always lending a helping hand. “He was such a loving, trustworthy boy.”
Theunissen says several witnesses saw the murder and two men have been arrested, but the case is still dragging on in court, three years later.
She grows animated and speaks of her great frustration at their endless search for justice.
“The lawyers have changed so many times, the judge has been sick, things just never move.”
Theunissen says one of the witnesses was stabbed several times in the neck by an unknown attacker while another witness has taken ill, further delaying the process.
“Today, the judge is still sick, so every time we go to court the case is simply postponed and we have to leave again, hoping that next time matters will get moving.”
Theunissen says one of the accused has been released on bail and is able to move freely in the community which means she has to face him. The second accused has also received bail, but has to remain in Manenberg.
“I know the one accused and he was constantly walking up and down where I was, in my space, until one day I confronted him when he was standing next to me in a shop and I said “Stop it! Stop standing next to me, just stop it! He immediately apologised and said, ‘Sorry Auntie Naaz’.”
Theunissen said the second accused was aggressive when he appeared in court and his family and girlfriend threatened her. Both accused have since had their bail remanded and are in Pollsmoor Prison for not meeting their bail conditions.
“I told him in court: ‘You took my son away, feel what it feels like to have something taken away. Go to prison and pay your debts.’ But they laugh at us,” says Theunissen.
Theunissen says being part of the Moms Move for Justice group is her “healing process”.
“There was a time when I had so much hatred and anger, but at some stage you understand that for your own survival you have to forgive so you can move on or you will forever be stuck in that dark hole.
“That day I confronted the one accused in the shop, it released me. Only he and God knows what happened that day.”
Theunissen says Naasief sends her feathers on her path even when there are no birds around. “So, I know he is with me,” she smiles.
“He had so many plans and dreams for his future. He was my baby, a gift from God.” MC