The family of an Imizamo Yethu woman who was gunned down in cold blood in front of her seven children a year ago say they are no closer to justice.
Elaine Hendricks, 37, who worked at well-known craft shop Original T Bag Designs, was shot while sitting outside the spaza shop run from the family home in NR Mandela Road on Monday November 6 2017 (“Mom killed in shooting”, Sentinel, November 10 2017).
Ms Hendricks had been sitting outside the shop with her mother Willemina Hendricks and her seven children – then aged between 4 and 20. She had asked Willemina to go inside the shop to buy her airtime, and it was during this time that a gunman came past, shooting her in the chest four times.
Willemina had seen a suspect “with a scar on his face” running away from the crime scene.
The family believed they had been targeted because there was resentment over their spaza shop among other shop owners in the community. In the weeks leading up to Ms Hendricks’s death, the family home, which is attached to the spaza shop, had been petrol-bombed and angry mobs had gathered to demand they close the store.
Only days after Ms Hendrick’s murder, another family member was shot outside the shop, but she was lucky to escape with injuries.
There had been speculation that the family was selling drugs from the store, but the family have vehemently denied this repeatedly.
At the time of the shootings, the Hendricks family were reluctant to discuss too many details about who exactly they suspected were behind the attacks for fear of reprisal. But this week, only days after the anniversary of Ms Hendricks’s death, they provided new insights. They also blamed the justice system for failing them.
Ms Hendricks’s emotional father, Albert Hendricks, said despite going “multiple times” to Hout Bay police station to establish why the case was not progressing, he had never been given a proper answer.
“We’ve been told that police detectives would be taking over the case, but when we’ve spoken to these detectives they’ve told us they did go to see Captain (Deon) Bock at Hout Bay police but he wasn’t there. And when we go to Captain Bock and the other officer, (Warrant Officer Brian) Oosthuizen, they are always telling us we should come back later. Not a thing is being done,” Mr Hendricks said.
Ms Hendricks’s only brother, John Hendricks, is adamant that his sister was the victim of a “hit” intended to force the family to close the spaza shop.
“Even before Elaine was shot, this guy Gary was coming to us, threatening us that we must close down the shop. He told us he was a member of Sanco (South African National Civic Organisation) and that he knew people in Gugulethu and Khayelitsha for who it was nothing to force us to close,” John said.
Asked if the “Gary” he was referring to was Samkelo “Gary” Krweqe, of Sanco Hout Bay and a taxi operator, John responded, “Yes.”.
“The Somali shops around here, I am sure they gave Gary money to act as a go-between between them and the people who targeted us.”
However, Mr Krweqe painted a very different picture of events.
“A Somali was running that family’s spaza shop, but there has always been tension between the Somali and Ethiopian shop owners. There has been agreement that no new shop would open in the area so that we could keep the peace. Community leaders also needed to be informed if a new shop opened,” he said.
“As community leaders, we had to step in but the family did not want to close the shop. We even took this matter to the station commander at Hout Bay police station, but the family said they had the right to have the shop and they would even go to court. We then held a public meeting, and Albert attended this meeting. The community told him they did not want the shop.”
A few days after this meeting, Mr Krweqe said, he received a call at 2am from Albert, asking him to intervene urgently. “The family called me to tell me a mob was trying to burn their house down. When I arrived, they even showed me a petrol canister. I then went with them to the police station.
“Then a few days after that, I was sitting in a taxi meeting, when I was told that Elaine had been shot. I immediately wanted to go to the house, but I was told by members of my family not to go there, because the Hendricks family were saying I was responsible.”
Mr Krweqe said his life had been a living nightmare since.
“This family are always threatening me. They want me arrested. But I’ve even gone to the police to tell them to arrest me if they think I’m guilty. But they tell me there’s nothing they can do, because it was not me who killed her. I did not kill their daughter. I’m willing to go to court to clear my name.”
Mr Krweqe is currently out on bail after he was accused of shooting and killing a taxi driver in Camps Bay in September. He has claimed self-defence, alleging that he was systematically targeted by rivals in the taxi industry.
Since last year’s shootings, the doors of the family’s spaza shop have remained shut. The result was that they had not been threatened again, the family said.
Mr Hendricks said Elaine’s absence in the home was a “daily nightmare” for her seven children. One of the younger children missed her mother’s laughter the most.
“I think Elaine’s death has affected my parents (Albert and Willemina) the most. They don’t show it much, but I know they’re hurting badly. As for me, I feel like my sister is working through me to hold the family together, but it’s so difficult. Her death has left a huge hole in this house,” John said.
Ms Hendricks’s eldest daughter, Simnikiwe, 21, still cannot come to grips with what has happened to her mother.
“How can a black man murder a black woman, a black mother just like his own who would go to hell and back for her children? A black man who murders a black woman because of money that comes from a foreign hand? No black man, you are not a man. Have you been to the mountains? Do they teach you to murder your black mothers there? Were you even raised by a black mother,” Simnikiwe said.
Willemina said all she wanted was justice for her daughter.
“But at the moment it seems like there is no justice from the law. But even if there’s no justice from the law, we know there will be justice from God,” she said.
Hout Bay police spokeswoman, Warrant Officer Tanya Lesch, said no arrests had been made but Warrant Officer Oosthuizen was on the case and investigations were continuing.