Maverick Citizen

MURDER MOST FOUL

The horrific death of ‘everbody’s child’ Tazlin Lucas is an indictment of our failing, uncaring, heartless state

The horrific death of ‘everbody’s child’  Tazlin Lucas  is an indictment of our failing, uncaring, heartless state
An all-female squad of Nelson Mandela Bay metro traffic officers escorted Tazlin to her final resting place. (Photo: Donna van der Watt)

Heartbreak as Airport Valley community in Gqeberha buries ‘everybody’s child’ after her horrific murder in a row of abandoned houses. ‘Enough is enough,’ they say, calling for government to demolish the structures, which have become a haven for gangs and drug addicts

On Saturday morning as he helped the funeral director transfer Tazlin Lucas’ tiny coffin into the hearse, the driver broke down and sobbed. An all-women squad of traffic police officers wiped their tears as they lined up to take her to her final resting place and community leaders, teachers, councillors and learners were crying as they said goodbye to ‘everybody’s child’, the quick and clever little girl they all had so much hope for.

It has been a brutal two weeks in Airport Valley in Gqeberha in the Eastern Cape. The community has been battling floods, fire, everyday hunger, and heart-stopping violent crime.

Then the children found what they thought was a doll. 

Tazlin’s body was found burnt almost beyond recognition on 24 July. A 32-year-old man has been arrested.
(Photo: Donna van der Watt)

Tazlin’s mom Abrunecia Lucas (left) being comforted by a family member at the funeral. (Photo: Donna van der Watt)

Tazlin’s mom Abrunecia Lucas (middle) at their home in Airport Valley, Gqeberha, supported by family members. (Photo: Donna van der Watt)

Community leader Zama Mona is a tall, stoic man, easily recognisable by his favourite flat cap and his calm manner. Mona has been keeping his community together for decades, but even he can’t keep the emotion out of his voice as he recounts the bitter day on 24 July when children called him to say they found a burnt doll. 

In Airport Valley there is a row of government houses in the area called Marikana abandoned by the construction company in 2016. These have now become the stronghold for drug addicts and gangs and are the bane of the close-knit Marikana community’s life.

But the children of the area also use the abandoned houses during the day time “to play house”. And it was here that they found “the doll”. 

Only it wasn’t a doll. It was an 8-year-old girl who had been burnt almost beyond recognition.

“The children first called one of the mothers and then they came to me and they said there is a big doll in one of the houses. But it was Tazlin,” Mona said.

The police arrived at 5pm. The community immediately knew who the little girl was. Tazlin Lucas. The clever and quick-moving little social butterfly who would watch television here, have a meal there, and would walk far to Mama Julia’s soup kitchen for food. Everybody’s child.

But Tazlin was never reported missing even though the last time anyone saw her was on Friday, 21 July, when one of the gogos in the neighbourhood gave her a bowl of noodles and a cup of tea and let her watch some television. She then said she was going home.

Marikana in Airport Valley is an area that floods regularly. People live in emergency housing provided more than a decade ago – a small Afrikaans-speaking community in the middle of the Xhosa-speaking Walmer Township but one that is loved and treasured as everyone fights against poverty.

When the police came to fetch her body, community members said they found her arms were broken. She was only wearing a black pair of pants. A few metres from where she was found, was the site marking the death of a Somali man, who was found hanging from a roof beam a few weeks before. All the community will tell you is that he didn’t hang himself. 

Tazlin was lying next to a broken brick and a cut-off drain pipe. A black plastic rubbish bag covered part of her body. A plastic bottle and broken roof tiles were littered around her body.

Mama Julia Mbambo, who runs the Walmer Angels soup kitchen where Tazlin would come for meals, and her sister Sommi Olwethu rushed to the family’s side to help.

Learners from schools in the area react to Tazlin’s violent murder. (Photo: Deon Ferreira)

“My heart is shaken,” Mbambo, who is normally as tough as nails, said as the tears rolled down her face. “I think I have only seen Julia cry twice before,” said Glenda Brunette, who founded Walmer Angels. 

Olwethu said the local funeral director, Matthew Gqirana from Gqirana Funerals, offered to bury Tazlin at no cost. But later in the week the Nelson Mandela Bay metro offered to cover the costs. Taxi drivers arrived to transport mourners for free. An all-female squad of traffic officers offered to escort the funeral procession to Tazlin’s final resting place. 

Tazlin’s teachers from Lower Walmer Primary School confirmed that she and her mom were referred for social work interventions last year but that it hadn’t worked. Her twin brothers, from another father, were removed from the house and placed in the care of their paternal grandmother. But Tazlin remained with her mom until the Friday before her death.

“We want this child to be seen,” said Luke Lamprecht, the head of advocacy for Women and Men against Child Abuse. “This was a life.”

One of Tazlin’s friends putting a flower on her coffin. (Photo: Donna van der Watt)

Tazlin’s friends singing a hymn at the funeral. (Photo: Donna van der Watt)

Children carrying posters at a protest calling for their friend Tazlin Lucas’ killer to be brought to justice. (Photo: Deon Ferreira)

Tazlin’s school friends staged a quiet protest at the funeral calling for their friend’s killer to be brought to justice. (Photo: Donna van der Watt)

Tazlin’s friends line up to put flowers on her coffin. (Photo: Donna van der Watt)

Children from Lower Walmer Primary School formed a guard of honour for Tazlin as her family carried her coffin into the hall where her funeral was held. (Photo: Donna van der Watt)

Ward councillor Nozuko Mavis Mbambo said they wanted a viewing of Tazlin’s body for everyone to say goodbye but there was too much damage. “We decided it would be best to keep the coffin closed.”

On 27 July teachers and the School Governing Body of the Lower Walmer Primary School sent out a message to learners and parents: 

“Please keep our children in your hearts and minds 💛🤗One of our gr2 girls was raped and murdered this past weekend. The school is in shock 😢 This should not happen to our innocent children 🤗 I’ve shared our condolences with the Staff and Governing Body.”

On the evening of 27 July, the community came together in prayer.

On 2 August about 100 learners from Lower Walmer Primary and another primary school in the area, John Masiza Primary, held a peaceful protest at the Walmer Police Station to call for their friend’s killer to be brought to book.

Officer surround Tazlin’s coffin during the funeral. (Photo: Donna van der Watt)

An all-female squad of Nelson Mandela Bay metro traffic officers escorted Tazlin to her final resting place. (Photo: Donna van der Watt)

A few hours later a 32-year-old man was arrested in connection with Tazlin’s rape and murder. 

“The community found him first,” Mona said. “They were busy with him when a security firm called the police. He confessed.” 

In the days before his arrest, the community was alarmed when they saw him with many scratches on his face.

Police spokesperson Captain Sandra Janse van Rensburg reported: “It is alleged that at about 2.30pm, the community found the suspect at the 5th Avenue dumping site and started to assault him when a security vehicle stopped and intervened. The man was taken to SAPS Walmer and was detained for the murder of the child. The suspect is alleged to be the boyfriend of the deceased girl’s mother. 

On 3 August, he was released again. Olwethu said he wasn’t living with Tazlin’s mother, but was from the area.

Drum majorettes and classmates from Walmer Lower Primary School in Gqeberha form a guard of honour as Tazlin’s coffin arrives at the school for her funeral. (Photo: Donna van der Watt)

‘My heart is shaken,’ Walmer community leader Julia Mbambo said as she arrived at the SAPS in Walmer to support a children’s protest. (Photo: Deon Ferreira)

“DNA was taken from him and will be sent for analysis” said Colonel Priscilla Naidu of the SAPS. 

But shortly after his release, he was detained again as there was a warrant of arrest for him on a housebreaking and theft case dating back to September 2022. He will apply for bail for this case in the coming week, Naidu added.

On Saturday as the community gathered for Tazlin’s funeral, frustrated pastors arrived to once again preach against violence against women. The elders came dressed in their old pinstripe suits to help where they could. The outside hall was decorated with Christmas decorations. The coffin was covered in flowers. 

Pat Hippert and Karen Jack, who run the Shine Literacy Centre, where additional support in reading and a library is provided to learners, arrived with coffee, boxes of tissues, koeksisters and to clean and open the centre’s toilets for the mourners.

As her coffin was carried in, mourners sang the hymn they chose for her: Yawa Lembewu.

“When the blood of Abel touched the ground. It cried for vengeance. 

But when the blood of Christ touched the ground It cried for Redemption.”

For kilometres a school school steel band accompanied the hearse carrying Tazlin’s coffin. The hearse had some trouble with one of its tyres as it navigated the pothole-riddled streets to the Lower Walmer Primary School. 

At the school, the drum majorettes and guard of honour from her class were waiting for her for one last time. Teachers remained on duty throughout Saturday to comfort their learners.

An all-female traffic officer squad joined the procession to accompany the family to Tazlin’s final resting place. 

A traffic officer breaks down during the funeral. (Photo: Donna van der Watt)

“We are so angry,” Assistant Superintendent Thandeka Tokota said, addressing the mourners. “We must fight this. Our women are facing vicious acts every day. We cannot tolerate this. This was the last refuge of a disgusting and immoral man.

“In a world that has become numb to violence, we must be her voice. We must not lose sight of hope but enough is enough,” Thandeka said.

Her sentiments were echoed by ward councillor Mbambo, who said the violence in the area has not let up. “We must take our Walmer back.”

Community members have agreed that the first of next week’s public works programme jobs must go to Tazlin’s mom to help her.

The day before the funeral, there was a report that a woman had been raped in the abandoned houses. 

“We want these houses demolished,” Mona said. “We want the national government to come and see. And we want these houses gone.” 

The area’s police station, Fountain Police Station, has been closed since 2017. DM 

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    Heartbreaking. Tazlin could be the child of anyone in this country.

    We all have to power to change this. It is time to put race aside where it belongs and work together.

    So, I appeal to everyone: Vote for a party that understands the absolutely necessity of law and order for building the great country we all deserve, and in equality for all our citizens.

    Vote DA. You can help save our country, and us all.

  • Derek Jones says:

    As usual unless I am mistaken this whole tragedy has been ignored by our wonderful president.

  • The last sentence is very telling.

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    Family structures remain as broken in most poor communities as they were under Apartheid when migrant workers left families for the mines and mothers and grandmothers left children with neighbours whilst working as live in domestics. What’s the excuse for single or no parent households these days? Most children born to the majority population today are born from single mothers…where are the fathers who should be around to protect their families?
    This is further encouraged by a Social Grant system seen as easy money – the more kids you have the more money you get. And that money is invariably spent on hairdos and cellphone data. Something has to change. Perhaps access to and rewards for birth control might encourage people who can’t or won’t raise kids change their minds?

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

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