Cape Town – Monday is judgment day for the four Angelo Davids murder accused in the Western Cape High Court. However, gangsters have also threatened that Manenberg community activist Roegshanda Pascoe, a key State witness in the trial, will have a "judgment day" of her own before then.
“The rumour in the community is that they are prepared to kill me before Monday even though the case is almost finished. That is just the gang’s way of saying you did this, we are still going to get you,” Pascoe told the Cape Times yesterday.
“I was hoping to go to the court on the 2nd of September to show them we are taking a stance here, although the police don’t want me there. The gangs are mobilising.”
Pascoe knows her life will always be under threat – even after the trial ends. She has had to be moved to four different safe locations since she started testifying in March, with her son, two daughters, a daughter-in-law and three grandchildren in tow.
In July 2016, she was among Manenberg residents who watched helplessly as Davids, 26, an alleged member of the Hard Livings gang, who died in hospital hours later, was brutally assaulted a few metres from Pascoe's house. One of the accused is alleged Clever Kids gang leader Mogamat Faeez Hendricks.
When none of the other witnesses came forward, Pascoe, against the advice of her ex-husband, who feared the consequences, decided to become a State witness.
On the night of March 6 this year, unknown gunmen opened fire on her home. Earlier that day – the day before she was to testify in court – she had been moved to a house of safety.
The sound of her grandchildren crying in the background, when her 24-year-old son called to inform her that they had managed to survive a hail of bullets relatively unscathed, still haunts her.
Pascoe, who feels like a “victim of the State”, will have a meeting today, accompanied by her Legal Centre representative, with the provincial department of human settlements to determine where she will live on the conclusion of the trial.
“One of the concerns for me is, why has no provision been made up to now where I will live in future? I have to sign a new lease and contract with the human settlements office even before they are going to see where they are going to place me.
“Where are they going to place me is the big question? How protected will we be there because we know an RDP house or any form of Western Cape human settlements house are in the same kind of communities like Manenberg?
“I have to see whether we can meet each other halfway because I wouldn’t want to put my children through more trauma than they have already endured.
“My grandson constantly tells me he is not going back to that broken house full of holes. The simplest of sounds can make him go off.”
Asked whether, with the benefit of hindsight, she would have taken a different course of action, Pascoe said: “I don’t have any regrets. The only regret is that my children are paying the price for my work and my stance that I have taken and that is killing me.
“I have been sick for three weeks. The doctor requested me to destress and relax and I don’t know how to do that. Who is there to support me as a single mother?
“My 15-year-old daughter (who has had to be taken out of school for her safety) has to be placed in a school as soon as possible before the next year and that all depends on where the department is going to place us.
“What the kids are saying, and I understand my children’s pain, their anger, their fear, is that you have offered your life up for the human race and the human race doesn’t give a sh*t what is happening to us.
“They don’t know when we are out of food, they don’t know how we long to be amongst family and friends.
“They have been ripped from their family and friends and they deserve to be settled. And I guess it’s fair for them to lash out at me at times and I guess I just have to endure.”
What Pascoe could never do – “because I wasn’t brought up that way” – was what a former State witness in the Davids trial did.
“Even though she herself has lost a loved one, she sold her soul for a R10 000 bribe to the gangs. It pained me. It’s not what I want to give my children. I want to teach my children that when they see something wrong, speak up at any cost. And sometimes it will cost your life.”
She says she finds herself in a “no win or lose situation”.
“Either way in the end, whether I testified or didn’t testify, I can be the next victim. Spiritually, I am set free because a man died. He died in front of me and in front of a whole street full of people.
“You know what killed me is when all those people step in the court to support the gang members, I couldn’t handle it. We should be filling the courts in support against the perpetrators.
“Psychologically, people are not at that level where they say ‘let’s do something for the greater good’. I am turning 45 next month and all I think about is, we say we are God-fearing but are we not going to satisfy God first before anything else?"
There are many harsh realities Pascoe has to face daily, among them her mother’s viewpoint of what she got herself into.
“My family is already a far distance from us and some are afraid. My own mother is too afraid to say in public she is my mother.
“There was one scenario recently when we were at a hospital when a lady said she was listening to the radio and the woman speaking was Roegshanda Pascoe from Manenberg and said she loved the way she speaks.
“My mother told her you are speaking to her now and the woman was shocked. She said to my mother you should be proud of your daughter.
"My mother said, ‘yes, but it can easily become a dead daughter. I am proud but I wouldn’t want to pick up my child’s body with dead people. Nobody cares now what’s happening to her’.
Pascoe said she is trying to put her family first.
“One striking thing a friend told me, and it kind of hurt to an extent, was that she said ‘I don’t want to become a Roegshanda’, and it kind of it hit me in the face. I’ve always been there for other people and neglected my own in the process.
“I constantly apologise when I see the pain my son is in. He is totally traumatised. The guy emptied the 16-shooter at him while the children were screaming. So he struggles to sleep.”
On Saturday, when the 6-year-old Nathlia Pienaar from Lavender Hill was shot in gang crossfire and later died, Pascoe’s daughter and daughter-in-law were at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital.
“They engaged with Nathlia’s family while being there with my granddaughter. When they came back, my daughter was crying so profusely.
"She said, ‘how long have you put your life on the line, many people have put their lives on the line, but this government isn’t listening. Does that mean you have to be killed or any of us have to be killed? And then all they will have are apologies and condolences’.”