Durban - A relative of slain Shallcross schoolgirl Sadia Sukhraj has described the 9-year-old as a bubbly child who loved her family.
Sadia was shot dead in a botched hijacking on Monday.
As mourners gathered at the family home to pay their respects to the grieving parents on Monday Davika Sukhraj, who lives in the same house, said her nephew (Shailendra) and his wife had waited eight years before having another baby because Sadia was so precious to them.
“She was a very spiritual child, her name actually means Chosen of God. She wanted to get into the ministry like her dad,” she said.Sadia’s mother cut a lonely figure as she sat on her daughter’s bed wailing. The Grade 4 pupil will be laid to rest on Tuesday.
The little girl died in hospital after being shot in the abdomen on Monday morning during a botched hijacking outside her grandparents’ home.
Her father, Shailendra, a local pastor, had dropped off her 7-month-old brother with his parents and was about to leave to take Sadia to school - Everest Primary - about half a kilometre away, when the hijackers struck.
Three men on foot allegedly confronted Shailendra, said police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala.
They hijacked his Hyundai SUV taking Sadia with them in the car, said Gwala.
Less than 300m away, the hijackers crashed the vehicle into the side of a truck.
The truck driver, Petros Ngubane, said that after the crash the vehicle sped off down the road.
He said the road was a dead end, so the suspects had no choice but to come back up the road.
“They parked behind my truck and I went to talk to them about the damage they caused to my vehicle. But they started chasing me with the car. I ran and injured my leg.
“The driver than veered off the road, opened his door and ran away,” said Ngubane.
He said he did not see Sadia in the car.
“The next thing I heard was gunshots. But I don’t know who shot who,” said Ngubane.
Gwala said they would be investigating the circumstances of the shooting, as it was not yet clear what had taken place.
She also said an off-duty police officer had also given chase and apprehended one suspect, while a second suspect was found dead at the scene.
While it is believed the suspect may have been beaten to death by angry community members, Gwala said the nature of his injuries was still unknown.
The stand-off between the SAPS and community heightened on Monday night after police allegedly shot rubber bullets and fired tear gas canisters into the crowd.
Community member Ashley Pillay claimed they were picketing peacefully when police “suddenly opened fire on us”.
“They shot rubber bullets, stun grenades and tear gas into the crowd which included children. They did all of this without giving any warning. Everybody started running away. People were injured and cars were damaged in the chaos.”
Pillay described the reaction from police as uncalled for and said it was a demonstration of how little regard they had for the community of Chatsworth.
“Instead of doing their jobs and protecting us, they assault us, innocent, unarmed people who just want justice. Police are the ones who are unruly,” he said.
Pillay, with others, had first staged a protest outside the Chatsworth Police Station at about midday on Monday.
He had blocked the entrance of the police station with his car, then sat on the ground, calling for police to do their jobs.
“As a community, how much more can we take? Chatsworth has become a haven for criminals. If we, as a community, cannot protect our children, then what is our reason to live?”
Crime scene investigators combed the scene for hours before the body of the hijacker was removed and the bullet-riddled car was towed away. Sniffer dogs were also brought in to try to track the third hijacker.
KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Community Safety and Liaison Mxolisi Kaunda conveyed his condolences to Sadia’s family.
He said communities should unite and declare war on all forms of criminality in the province.
“Police alone will not be able to deal with the scourge of crime in the province. It is for this reason that we call upon members of the community individually and collectively to form a united front against crime,” said Kaunda.
Commenting on Monday night’s protest, Gwala said:“This evening about 1000 people embarked in a protest action outside the Chatsworth police station. They were burning tyres, blockading the road and hurled objects at the station premises.”
“The POP (public order policing) members had to use stun grenades to disperse the unruly crowd. There are suspects that were arrested but members are still processing them. At this stage it’s still unknown how many were arrested and also the damage to state property is unknown. The police are still at the scene,” he said.