Cape Town - Around 50 mothers who have lost children to gang violence and crime gathered on Saturday for a day of healing and reconciliation in Hanover Park.
Overwhelmed by the shared grief of losing a child unexpectedly, mothers and grandmothers held and consoled each other as some openly wept.
Personal accounts were shared, and poetry was read followed by dancing and singing after the tears had been wiped. The mothers were treated to a meal and dessert at Crystal High School in Greenturf Road.
Event organiser Kashiefa Mohammad’s son, Raffiq, was stabbed to death in 2017, and his passing was the inspiration for this annual event of healing, held at the school he attended.
"Three years ago, on my birthday, my 17-year-old son was murdered. The event is about moms who lost children, but not just innocent children, also moms with gangster children. The event goes over healing and forgiving, where two moms can forgive each other if the one mom's son murdered the next mom's son."
Mohammad has been working for the past 27 years as a crime fighter and community activist. Through her work with the Hanover Park Community Policing Forum, she had come to personally encounter each of the mothers present.
"It's a very sad thing, coming together especially as moms. They don't need to feel lonely. There is support out there. There is somebody they can speak to. They can say what they feel and what the pain is.”
Bridgetown mother Sadiya Kellerman, 58, said her 16-year-old son, Yusiad Petersen, was stabbed by a 16-year-old gangster in May 2019 during the month of Ramadaan and while breaking fast with the community.
“They stabbed my son in his heart. There were hundreds of people around. For four days he was unconscious in the hospital and (then) he died,” she said.
"What was traumatising the most was the way the justice system was working. The police only came once out to me and they never came back to me."
She said she was told, "this is just another case," at the police station.
On the same day that Noleen Barnes, 54, celebrated her two granddaughters’ birthdays, she lost her son, Nathan, in what seemed like a suicide attempt. His body was found hanging close to her home.
"It was very difficult for us as a family. We thought it was suicide, but later found out he was murdered and hanged there."
She shared the advice given to her by a pastor. “To accept isn't easy. It's still not easy, but once you accept, and then God deals with you to find healing. People think that when healing takes place, you shouldn't cry. You still cry but the longing takes time … I think for many of us the longing is the most painful ... but it's good to speak about it.”
Pastor Maureen Adams, 58, from Tafelsig, said her son was shot in 2019.
"On Friday night, he saw they shot someone dead and on Saturday they shot him. God prepared me beforehand to work with mothers who are in that situation.”