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Seven days before neighbourhood watch volunteer Soraya Nordien was gunned down in Lavender Hill, a known gangster approached her outside her home and pointed a silver gun at her head.
During the following days, Nordien, 49, a mother of three who dedicated two decades to helping those in her community, had been uncharacteristically scared to leave her house.
Last week she was shot in the chest in her boyfriend’s home. The gang violence has reached such high levels that neighbourhood watch members have been told to cancel street patrols as it has become too dangerous.
On Wednesday, Nordien’s closest friend, Aysha Davids, also a neighbourhood watch member and community worker, said she believed Nordien had been targeted. A resident had since warned Davids she was “next on the list”.
“Are the gangsters fighting the community organisations now? Soraya wasn’t scared to talk to the gangsters. She’d go up to them, tell them to stop the fighting and say she’d pray for them,” Davids said.
Nordien is one of at least six people killed in the Lavender Hill area in a week.
Three days before Nordien was murdered, eight-year-old Zunaid McKenzie died when he was shot in the head in front of his Steenberg home.
On Wednesday police spokesman Frederick van Wyk said a 31-year-old man, suspected of being linked to a Steenberg gang, was arrested on Tuesday for Nordien’s murder.
He said three other suspects, all possibly linked to a local gang, were arrested on Wednesday and a 7.65 CZ pistol with eight rounds was confiscated.
The four were expected to appear in the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court on Thursday on charges of murder, house robbery and illegal possession of a firearm.
On Wednesday Nordien’s youngest child Zainab Nordien, 22, said a week before her mother was murdered they had been standing together on the pavement opposite their home.
Nordien had been holding Zainab’s six-month-old son Nathier Jacobs. “One guy was standing on the corner with three others. Suddenly he walked towards my mom and pulled out a silver gun. He pointed it at her head,” Zainab said. Nordien had handed Nathier to Zainab and walked to the gunman, who Zainab said was a known Junky Funky Kid gang member.
It was not clear what Nordien and the gangster said. “That gangster knew my mom. She worked more for the community than for her own kids. She was completely anti-gangsters and would patrol the streets until 4am,” Zainab said. She said the gangster was arrested three days later for an unrelated matter regarding a gun, and he had been in jail at the time of her mother’s murder.
On Wednesday, standing in a group outside Nordien’s home, her friends described her as selfless. She had helped start the organisation Women Hope for the Nation, which included a feeding scheme, mentoring of school drop-outs and helping abused children.
Nordien’s boyfriend, Trevor Jonas, said she had been with him and a friend in his shack on Friday when the shooting happened. “Two guys broke down the door. They rushed past me, stole my friend’s cellphone and wallet. Soraya was in bed. I just heard the shot, then the men ran away. Soraya was just lying there,” he said.
Jonas, who was living in Nordien’s home, was too traumatised to return to his shack and asked Davids to show the Cape Times team where Nordien had been murdered.
The shack, a few kilometres into the Village Heights settlement, was closed up. “Why come distinctly to this place? Why not rob the shop down the road? To me this wasn’t a robbery. Soraya’s cellphone and money were still in her pockets,” Davids said.
She said after the gangster had pointed the gun at Nordien, Nordien had changed from strong and outspoken to introverted. “(On Tuesday) someone came to tell me my name’s next on the list. I’m okay, but my 18-year-old son is traumatised,” Davids said.
On Wednesday Steenberg Community Police Forum chairman Kevin Southgate said in one week six people had been killed in gang shootings in the Lavender Hill area. “We don’t need police statistics to prove to us that the situation is out of control,” he said. Southgate said as a result of Nordien’s murder, it was decided that: “Neighbourhood watches will not patrol until police stabilise the area.” There were 12 neighbourhood watches in the area, with a total of 160 members.
Southgate had asked sector managers to tell members not to wear their reflective jackets as this made them “very vulnerable”. He said police were planning to set up a satellite station in Lavender Hill.
Provincial police commissioner Arno Lamoer said gang violence was a major concern. He said Lavender Hill and Hanover Park were currently the areas worst affected, and enough police officers had been deployed. Detectives and intelligence operatives were also tackling the gang problem.