Michaela Williams, 12, from Pelican Park, was brutally murdered by someone known to her and her family. Photo: supplied
Michaela Williams, 12, from Pelican Park, was brutally murdered by someone known to her and her family. Photo: supplied

Let’s not forget SA’s second pandemic

By Robin-Lee Francke Time of article published Jan 14, 2021

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Cape Town – While addressing the nation on Monday, President Cyril Ramaphosa stated the country is facing two pandemics, Covid-19 and gender-based violence.

While the world is in pandemonium over the second wave of Covid-19 hitting with its new variant, others are suffering silently, crying loudly and facing insurmountable challenges within their own homes and communities.

A Cape Town family is still reeling after their 12-year-old daughter was brutally taken from them in the most gruesome way possible.

Michaela Williams, from Pelican Park, was an average young girl who loved her family and especially loved playing with her friends, but a man known to her would end her life in a way that would shock the community.

Michaela went missing just after 7.30pm on January 7, 2020, after she had finished supper and gone to play outside. Her mother immediately notified the authorities after she could not find her daughter and a search was conducted.

Candice van der Rheede, director of the Western Cape Missing Persons Unit (WCMPU), was notified and her team in the Pelican Park area immediately went in search of the girl.

Speaking to the African News Agency (ANA), Van der Rheede said her team had been searching everywhere until the police notified them that the suspect had pointed out the area where he left Michaela’s lifeless body.

“My team in the area went looking for her non-stop until the police told us that that monster said where she was,” she said.

Steven Fortune was subsequently arrested and on December 2, 2020, pleaded guilty to the murder, two counts of rape and kidnapping of Michaela.

Michaela Williams, 12, from Pelican Park, was brutally murdered by someone known to her and her family. Photo: supplied

He had lured the young girl away to a vacant plot not far from her home on the corner of 9th Avenue and Schaap Road.

According to the summary of facts presented before the Western Cape High Court, Fortune strangled Michaela with his hands and she resisted, knocking off his glasses. He then ripped the vest top she was wearing from her body and used the material to tie her wrists behind her back.

Fortune then penetrated Michaela through her vagina and anus, and when she tried screaming he used her own skirt to strangle her in an attempt to keep her quiet.

He then threw two concrete blocks on top of Michaela’s head and covered her body with a blanket before leaving the scene of the crime.

Fortune had been previously convicted of the attempted murder and rape of a young girl who managed to survive the ordeal even after he slit her throat. She managed to crawl home and name her perpetrator.

Now, a year after Michaela’s death, her family has no hope in celebrating small milestones with her; instead, they can only celebrate her memory.

On the first anniversary of her passing, neighbours, friends and family all celebrated the bubbly young girl while taking heed of all Covid-19 protocols.

Candice van der Rheede, director of the Western Cape Missing Persons Unit. File photo

With song and dance items being performed, Michaela’s friends stood holding flowers, doing what no child should – mourning the loss of their young friend.

“We want answers from the state as to why this man was released from prison. I feel communities are being cheated. We are not being approached about these releases, yet we are the ones who have to live with these criminals,” Van der Rheede told ANA.

She said celebrating the life of Michaela was emotional and she was near speechless because “what does one say?”.

“All I could tell her mother was that it was better to love and have lost than to never have loved at all. Death is inevitable, but some, especially our beautiful children, are being stolen from us beforehand,” Van der Rheede said.

She said she was personally holding the Department of Correctional Services accountable for Michaela’s death because had he remained in prison, she would still be alive today.

Sentencing proceedings against Fortune are set to commence on January 29.

So while we remain wrapped in a blanket of fear during this pandemic, let us also lend an ear to listen, a hand to help and keep an eye on our children for their own safety.

As the saying goes… it takes a village.

African News Agency (ANA)

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