‘Hands off our children’

About 3000 people marched from Tafelsig to Eastridge on Thursday.

Tafelsig resident Randy Tango, 31, appeared in the Mitchell’s Plain Magistrate’s Court on charges of rape, kidnapping and the murder of Stacha Arends, 11, who was found dead in a bushy area on Swartklip field last week.

He appeared for the second time, on Monday April 3 in a packed courtroom.

Bail was denied, and the case has been postponed to Wednesday May 3. He first appeared in court on Friday March 31.

Stacha went missing on Monday March 27, at 3pm, and was reported missing at 7.35pm at Mitchell’s Plain police station. Her body was found at 2.10am on Tuesday March 28, less than 12 hours after she went missing.

In the week since her body was found, residents have marched from Tafelsig to Eastridge, held at least three memorial services, protested at Mitchell’s Plain Magistrate’s court when the suspect appeared, and caused chaos by burning tyres in Tafelsig.

On Thursday March 30, more than 3000 people took to the streets in protest against recent child murders.

On Tuesday March 21, Human Rights Day, the body of Rene-Tracey Roman, 13, was found in Lavender Hill – 11 days after she was reported missing.

Community organisations, the faith fraternity, residents, safety structures and the police attended the march, which started at Tafelsig Primary and ended at the Orion church in Eastridge.

Protesters carried placards saying: “Stop killing our children”, “Prison is not justice” and “Bring back the death penalty”.

Rochelle Philander, director of Safeline Child Abuse Treatment and Prevention Centre in Beacon Valley, said residents should teach their children secret passwords and not to talk to strangers.

More importantly, they should keep them safe.

“As we can see, people came out today in numbers. We need our residents to stand up against these crimes 365 days a year,” she said.

Beacon Valley resident Mareldia Williams said she joined the march because Stacha could have been her child – and she would continue to fight for justice.

“This incident makes me very angry, and it is a real shock in our community. People come out in numbers because they care and want justice. Let us all stand together against rape and murder – these children are our future,” she said.

On the same day (Thursday March 30), at 9.30am, Tafelsig Primary held a memorial service for their Grade 7 pupil with parents, pupils, teachers, staff and residents in attendance.

The school’s principal, Arthur Abrahams, said they would miss the “loveable” Stacha. “She was a quiet and respectful child. This was a tragedy, and we hope that the family will find the strength and comfort to carry on over the next few days, weeks, months and years. Stacha was part of the Tafelsig Primary family too and will be missed,” he said.

At the memorial service, three of her best friends spoke, describing her as a “happy, helpful and kind friend”. After the speeches, the school choir sang Whitney Houston’s Greatest Love Of All.

On Thursday evening, there was chaos in Matroosberg Crescent in Tafelsig and surrounding areas as residents burnt tyres and threw stones in anger because they thought Mr Tango had returned home. But Mitchell’s Plain spokesperson Ian Williams said police had not taken Mr Tango to his house at any time during the investigation, although there were such rumours circulating in the community at the time,” he said.

On Wednesday March 29, residents gathered at Swartklip sports field while police were there following up leads and questioning people.

Standing close to the scene, Stacha’s emotional grandmother, Dawn Godfrey, said she would miss the girl, especially her pretty smile and sweet nature.

“It is a horrible thing that happened to our child, and we are still very emotional. Stacha was an obedient playful child who was innocent. Her parents are still in a state because that was their only girl,” she said.

Philadelphia Hartzenberg, a community activist and ward committee member for Ward 99, which includes Tafelsig, said too many children were disappearing.

“This hit the community hard, and it is very concerning for residents. We are sick and tired of these crimes and it’s time to take action,” she said.

Ms Hartzenberg said residents were concerned about the dunes and bushes at Swartklip sports field. “So many things are happening between the bushes. Thieves hide themselves and watch people on the field, they rob people and even do drugs,” she said.

Tafelsig resident Nathaniel Keet said his son, Baden, had been missing since 1994.

At the time, he was 13 years old. “I am still waiting for a knock on my door to hear that my son has returned. I have heard nothing from the police, and I feel like the justice system has failed me. This case of Stacha is serious, and, as a community member I will assist in any way possible,” he said.

Mitchell’s Plain Community Police Forum chairperson Abie Isaacs said it was good to see that residents had mobilised against crime.

“We support the initiatives by the community – this shows that they are concerned about our children and crime in Mitchell’s Plain,” he said.

With reference to the violence in Matroosberg Crescent, however, he warned residents not to take the law into their own hands. “This was concerning, and we are urging residents not to do so. Yes, we understand the frustration, but let the law take its course,” he said.

Stacha’s funeral was held yesterday, Tuesday April 4.