Thenjiwe Silo gets up from a mat where she is mourning the death of her only son, 19-year-old Someleze. She and her sister-in-law Asange Silo then sit down on chairs spaced two metres apart.
As is customary for an African mother whose son has died, she puts a shawl over her shoulders before welcoming visitors. The mother is visibly heartbroken after her son died in an alleged fight with police during a hijacking.
Her sister is quiet, playing with her mobile phone. The blaring music next door does not bother her soft voice. Her son had hoped to get his driver’s licence in July.
She starts relating the story, sobbing. She says on the fateful Saturday a fortnight ago that he lost his life, Someleze came home from the bank where he went to open an account.
But later his friends arrived and after 7pm, they all left with Someleze but she does not know where they went to. It was not long before her cellphone rang. A woman told her that somebody had been shot at Mfuleni’s notorious car wash. But the woman claimed that the man killed was her son. On her way to see the woman, one of the boys in the police van called her and told her that the dead man was in fact Someleze.
She hastily rushed to the scene. As she approached the car parked in the middle of the road, the police stopped her because it was a crime scene. She said all she wanted was to make sure that it was her son. The dead man was sitting in the driver’s seat with an arm up, she recalls.
Police came under attack for the way they handled the matter. The mother believes they could have done a lot better. She berated them for being cruel to her son.
“I asked them why they shot him. Couldn’t they shoot the car wheels? Why my son?,” she asked with tears running down her cheeks.
She says the group were suspected of hijacking a car. She says somebody told her that the car owner had stopped at a nearby shop and the group saw a chance to hijack him. Someleze was the only one who could drive.
The mother believes that the group was not dangerous.
Someleze’s father also expressed his heartbreak and overwhelming sadness at the way the matter has been handled. Mavenda Silo said his son had never shown any signs of being a criminal.
“I am not saying he was not, but there was never a sign that he is one. We have never had any bad reports about him. His death leaves a bitter taste. It was heartbreaking. We are still traumatised. We need counselling,” he told Vukani.
Police had promised to respond to Vukani’s queries on the matter by yesterday, Wednesday July 15, but had not done so by the time this edition went to print.