Tragedy strikes IY family

The father of Siyamthanda Betana waited five hours alongside his son’s dead body before he was able to load him into a police van.

Less than three days later, Thabiso Betana was also dead, the loss of his child too much to bear, according to the devastated family.

The double tragedy which first saw University of the Western Cape chemistry student Siyamthanda, 19, gunned down amid violent clashes in Imizamo Yethu on Friday July 21 followed by Thabiso’s death on Monday, has greatly angered the family, which is demanding answers and justice from the police.

With national Police Minister Fikile Mbalula addressing ongoing violence in Hout Bay on Sunday, Siyamthanda’s grieving sister, Zimasa Dyani, a teacher and up-and-coming actress in Johannesburg, had tweeted him in the hope that bringing her brother’s killer to justice would be made top priority.

Her plea was retweeted hundreds of times on Twitter. When no response was received, she turned to a friend who is connected to Mr Mbalula on Twitter, who then sent the minister a personal message on the social network. While it was indicated that Mr Mbalula had received the message, no response was forthcoming on Twitter.

“I don’t even care if he lied in his answer to me, but at least he could have acknowledged my messages,” said Ms Dyani, who graduated in drama and theatre and holds a post-graduate educational course qualification from UCT.

She flew down to Cape Town on Sunday to be with her mother, Agnes, her father and 17-year-old sister.

For Siyamthanda’s family, it was another disappointment they say they have suffered at the hands of police since his death. For Thabiso, it proved all too much.

“My father used to be a heavy drinker, but he had not been drinking for a while. After Siya’s death, he started drinking again. When I saw him on Sunday, he kept saying, ‘I can’t see my son dead.’ He was not eating. Eventually my sister took him a plate of food, just to try to get him to eat. He was already convulsing from emotion, and when he ate he started choking,” Ms Dyani said.

“I ran to the (Hout Bay) fire station and some paramedics were sent. My dad was on the ground for about 30 minutes as they tried to resuscitate him. He was taken to Victoria Hospital and put on life support. But my dad didn’t want to live with Siya gone.”

Siyamthanda was known throughout Hout Bay as a top achiever, both academically and as a talented violinist at the Hout Bay Music Project.

He had been visiting a friend in Imizamo Yethu between 10pm and 11pm when the young man heard a commotion in the street near a shop.

According to his sister, he had cautiously gone outside to investigate. Shots were fired and as people scattered, Siyamthanda’s lifeless body was all that remained in the street.

It is speculated that Siyamthanda was caught in the crossfire as a shopkeeper attempted to defend his store from looters who had wreaked havoc in Imizamo Yethu since Thursday afternoon, setting alight the homes of two community leaders and clashing with police.

“One lady had seen him falling. There was another boy who saw him, and picked him up, thinking he was drunk. This boy then tried to place him in front of a house, but the homeowner did not want him there,” Ms Dyani said.

“My dad was then informed that Siya had been shot. He went up to the area close to the green container, where he saw Siya’s body in the road. He told me police were patrolling, and my dad actually chased after them to tell them what happened. But he told me they said, ‘We are not here for these dogs’ (in reference to the looters).”

“Siya’s body was in the road, but my dad wouldn’t leave him. He waited there for five hours in the freezing cold. But it got even worse when the police did arrive. They made my dad pick up his body, offering little assistance.”

She also claimed the family had received no joy from making a statement to the police.

“My dad was told by officers there was no one at the station to pick up the phone. On Saturday afternoon, my mom went to the station and still could not get information. And then when I came to the station with my mom on Sunday to ask what was being done, an officer called Phiila said no one had told him anything about the shooting. But he told us that he would speak to his bosses to see if he could take over the case.”

She said the family were concerned why police were not questioning the shop owners.

She said she understands mistakes happen but they want whoever was involved in the shooting to come forward.

“I am sure whoever killed my brother is sorrowful for what happened, but we just want that person to say that it was a mistake. It is disrespectful when someone is killed in these circumstances not to come forward.”

Tributes have poured in for Siyamthanda on social media, and a former teacher, Ellen Fedele, has offered a R10 000 reward for his killer to be brought to justice.

“We lost a remarkable young man on Friday evening. Siya Betana died on the street in Imizamo Yethu after being shot. We are so proud of all Siya did and thankful to have known him for the last 10 years.

“He was such an intelligent, talented and thoughtful young man and made an enormous contribution to the Hout Bay Music Project. Our thoughts are with his parents and sisters. His death is a terrible tragedy,” the project said on its Facebook page.

His sister has been instrumental in his development as a scholar. When she arrived in Johannesburg, Ms Dyani took a teaching job so she could afford to pay for a flat in Bellville for her brother while he attended UWC. Years before she had convinced the principal of Wynberg Secondary School to accept her brother at the school, believing he deserved a good education.

Their was always an intense but friendly rivalry between the two elder siblings. With Ms Dyani being a dancer at the Jikeleza Project and Siyamthanda a violinist at the Hout Bay Music Project, they would always try to outdo each other.

“I wanted him to leave the township and make something of himself. He was visiting when he was shot. I always pleaded with him not to go walking at night because there were gangsters on the streets. Now this has happened.

“In my family we have always found a way to do things for ourselves. That was how Siya was as well. We never wanted help from anyone. Which is why it is destroying me to ask for help from the police and not getting any.”

She hoped the police could understand that the quicker Siyamthanda’s killer was brought to justice, the better it would be for everyone.

Hout Bay police spokesperson Warrant Officer Tanya Lesch said police saw Ms Dyani’s allegations “in a very serious manner”.

“If the family could make a formal complaint and set up a meeting with the station commander, Lieutenant Colonel Khuthala Nebhisi, a statement could be obtained and this could thoroughly be investigated.

Service delivery is very important to us and we want to assist the family in any way that we can,” she said.