It was meant to be a 2-minute walk to the corner shop for Ashtivon Gaffley. The electricity units at his Hanover Park home were running low and his father asked him to top it up so that they wouldn’t be in the dark.
Instead, he became one of 12 people murdered in the gang-ridden neighbourhood last month.
The 21-year-old never returned home after taking his last stroll with a friend on Tuesday June 11, 2019. At 12:30, in clear view of other pedestrians, he was shot as he tried to flee when gangsters opened fire in Athburg Walk.
Two shots were heard. One bullet missed. The other hit him in the back.
His mother Martine Gaffley had been at work in the city centre, where she is employed as an office cleaner, when a relative phoned her and urged her to go home immediately.
“When the driver dropped me at the corner of my street, I heard my seven-year-old daughter scream. She had been on her way home from school when she saw the body lying in the street. Her brother, my son, had been shot. He was dead.”
Ashtivon had died in his father’s arms, only two doors away from their home.
The sickly man had felt the blood bubbling from his son’s back as he tried to speak. He was dead before he could tell his dad what he had wanted to say.
According to witnesses, Ashtivon had pushed his friend who had accompanied him as well as another man out of the way as he fled the bullets.
Neighbours told Gaffley that her son had not been the intended target. She heard that after he was hit, Ashtivon continued to run. He called for his father who had come out of their house to see what had happened.
“His dad cries for him every night, because he saw Ashtivon’s legs eventually give way as he fell to the ground. Our son never got up again.”
His body had already been covered when she sat down on the pavement next to him.
“I opened his face and cried over him. I cried. My boy looked so peaceful. He could have been asleep, if it wasn’t for the blood running from his nose and mouth.”
Martine still hasn’t come to terms with Ashtivon’s death. He was scheduled to leave for Namibia on June 14, three days after his murder.
“We wanted him to get out of Hanover Park. There was nothing here for him, except danger and hopelessness. But he didn’t make it until his departure date.”
When you live in an area plagued by gangsterism, you teach your children survival skills, Gaffley said.
“I taught them that when you hear a shot, you lie down on the ground until it stops. It worked when my eldest son almost got caught in crossfire – he dropped the bag of potatoes he had been carrying, threw himself into someone’s yard and stayed down. Ashtivon shouldn’t have run. Then today I still would have had my three kids, not two.”
Western Cape police spokesperson Captain FC Van Wyk confirmed the incident.
According to him, a 21-year-old suspect was arrested.
No response was received when asked for further details and whether the suspect has appeared in court.
Gaffley said a detective had informed her that an arrest had been made, but later told her that the suspect could not be linked to Ashtivon’s murder.
“There are witnesses who saw what had happened, but nobody wants to come forward. And even if they catch the person who murdered him, that won’t bring him back to me,” she said.
“My son wasn’t a gangster. He didn’t have a tjappie (tattoo) on his body. He was a cheeky boy who had an answer for everything, but he was harmless. Everyone knew he couldn’t even fight.”
The Gaffleys have lived in Hanover Park for almost 20 years. Situated about 17 km outside Cape Town, the police’s Anti-Gang Unit was launched in the area by President Cyril Ramaphosa last year.
But Gaffley said she was yet to feel the effect of the specialised police team.
“It’s not lekker (good) to live here. Gangsters shoot and kill as they try to take over the streets. Bullets are fired here every day. If I had the means, I would move out today. But I can’t,” she said.
“This isn’t a safe place to raise your children, especially boys. They are intimidated to join the gangs. If they don’t, they get targeted and hurt. The consequences are bad, no matter what choice they make.”
If she could, she would have kept her children indoors around the clock.
“But that wouldn’t be fair on them. I couldn’t lock them up every day. As long as he was not out looking for trouble or putting himself in harm’s way, I had peace. Ashtivon loved playing dominoes with the neighbours and watching the comings and goings in the street. There wasn’t much else for him to do.
“But when he stepped out of the house, I would pray. I prayed and prayed and prayed for the blood of Jesus over my children, that they would always be safe. I knew what could happen to them. Because when you live in Hanover Park, you know death. You know people who have been murdered. It’s just how it is.”
She dreams of packing up and moving to a more peaceful area where she no longer has to panic every time a family member sets foot outside the door.
“But for now, there is nowhere else to go. We are stuck here, watching the children who grew up in front of us end up terrorising their own community.”
This story is part of a three-part “Gang Wars” series, this week focussing on Hanover Park. Parts 2 and 3 will be published on Monday and Tuesday.
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