Johannesburg - In less than 24 hours, Chantel Morris has had to identify the body of her 4-year-old boy and possibly come face to face with his alleged killers.
On Tuesday morning, a “strong” Chantel desperately prayed to prepare herself for an identity parade in which she could point out the alleged hijackers who dragged little Taegrin Morris behind her car as they fled.
Taegrin is believed to have been caught in the car’s seatbelt as his mother desperately tried to pull him out of the car during the hijacking.
On Monday afternoon, Chantel had to go to a mortuary to identify her son’s body with her husband, Elwin.
“She feels like she’s got a little bit of closure,” said family spokesman Grant Esterhuizen on Tuesday morning.
He said Chantel was relieved that the child’s face was mostly unharmed, and that an open-casket funeral was still an option.
But this was small comfort for the mother, who wept throughout the day.
Esterhuizen said Chantel was unavailable to comment early Tuesday morning as the family had urged her to try to get some rest, “even if it’s just half an hour”.
“Chantel has been really strong throughout and her husband has also been extremely strong.”
In preparation for Tuesday’s identity parade, Esterhuizen said Chantel had been “praying quite a lot” for the strength to cope with the trauma.
“Today for her is just another stepping stone, it’s just another thing she has to overcome,” said Esterhuizen. “I think she’ll be able to handle it.”
The family were expected to meet at about 9.30am at the Morris home to show their support for the parents before the identity parade.
At the time of publication, Esterhuizen said they were unsure of the location or time the identity parade would take place.
He said the family believed Chantel had seen the hijackers in the area before.
“I’m not 100 percent sure that she knows them as friends; she’s seen them in that area.
“The one guy we think used to go to Elwin’s sister’s house to ask for bread.”
Taegrin’s memorial service will take place in the Reiger Park community hall at 6pm on Thursday.
Meanwhile, desperate Reiger Park residents have vowed to take the law into their own hands if President Jacob Zuma does not address the crime in their community.
Taegrin’s death has sparked outrage in the tight-knit community, with threats to kill anyone related to the case.
The horrifying incident was a step too far for hundreds of residents who gathered to protest outside the local police station on Monday – the death of Taegrin on Saturday night being yet another example of the severity of the crime terrorising this Ekurhuleni community.
Last May, Zuma visited Eldorado Park in southern Joburg, another community ravaged by drugs and violence.
He initiated a government intervention that altered the way in which the community was policed and provided some hope to residents who felt the situation was beyond saving.
This came after a resident, Dereleen James, wrote a letter to Zuma in which she documented her struggle to get her son off crystal meth, a drug known as “tik”.
But with gang violence plaguing Reiger Park and criminals allegedly back on the streets shortly after their arrests, the community threatened to take matters into their own hands if justice was not seen to be done for Taegrin – and unless the president himself conducted a similar intervention in their community.
On Monday, provincial police spokeswoman Colonel Noxolo Kweza confirmed that no arrests had been made, but said a man had been brought in for questioning.
She said he was not a suspect.
Kweza could not be reached on Tuesday morning to confirm if the identity parade would be held as per the family’s information.Despite being told by station commander Lieutenant-Colonel Sipho Mathebula that someone was being questioned, the angry mob outside the station threatened to kill him if he was released.
“When this man is locked up today, tomorrow he will be back on the streets,” screamed Shenita Scorie. “This is the law of Reiger Park. If (the hijackers) are released, we will kill them.”
Standing beside them was Taegrin’s aunt, Rosline Kok, despondent as the rest of her community shouted down the police officers.
She and a close friend of the Morris family, Diane de Gama, said Zuma had to address crime in the community, because the police could no longer handle the gangs and drugs that had taken over.
This sentiment was echoed by other residents, who shouted: “Where is Zuma?”
Asked if Zuma would consider visiting Reiger Park, his spokesman, Mac Maharaj, redirected queries to the office of Gauteng Premier David Makhura. Maharaj said former premier Nomvula Mokonyane had been key in last year’s push for the president to visit Eldorado Park.
Makhura’s spokeswoman, Nino Zama, said while there were no concrete plans or requests for the president to visit the community, the premier himself was planning his own intervention to address the drug and crime problem.
Makhura visited the family on Monday, spending more than an hour expressing his condolences over Taegrin’s senseless killing.
“I have ordered police to step up their investigations into this young boy’s death. This act was heartless. Dragging a small boy for kilometres shows they could have been under the influence of drugs, as we know the community has a drug problem,” the premier said.