Emmanuel Davel and Kathy Jenks hoped to bring in the new year by celebrating with close friends on the popular 7th Street in Melville, Johannesburg. Every weekend, the street is packed with people, young and old, hoping to have a relaxed drink at one of the many bars or enjoy themselves at one of the clubs.
But this New Year’s Eve turned into a nightmare when, about an hour into the new year, a BMW SUV drove past Poppy’s restaurant in Melville and opened fire on its patrons, killing two women and injuring six other people.
Police are on a manhunt for those responsible but, for now, families are still dealing with the trauma. The reason for the shooting is still unclear, but it has left the Melville community reeling.
When Davel and Jenks left a nearby club, they immediately saw the flashing blue and red lights further up the road. “When we came out, we saw the ambulances and the lights up the street, so we walked up,” Davel told News24.
Both are clinical psychologists who deal with trauma often, so they decided to try and help.
The two made their way to the scene and tried to comfort families who watched helplessly as paramedics tried to resuscitate their loved ones.
“They were still working on the two women, trying to resuscitate them,” Davel said.
“My colleague tried to talk to the families, try to comfort them, but then eventually the paramedics gave up resuscitating.
“That was quite traumatic for the families and we realised that there was nothing much we could do at that point, so we decided to rather step back,” Davel said.
‘There has been a lot of blaming’
Two women were declared dead on the scene, according to police. Six other people were rushed to hospital.
Davel and Jenks said there been some negative comments made about the incident. “Suddenly there has been a lot of blaming, like ‘I told you so’.”
“There was a lot dissent [on Facebook], pointing fingers, blaming, racism and unnecessary comments that were not helpful,” Jenks explained.
Davel said he felt like this took away the meaning of what had happened in Melville that night, and the suffering of those involved.
“There are families who have lost loved ones; children who have lost their mothers.
“For me, it’s like this has opened a huge wound for Melville and Westdene and for people to stand there and scream at each other and do the blaming thing. It’s counterproductive,” Davel explained.
The two have decided to host a night vigil for the victims of the shooting in the hope of bringing the community together again.
“We need to say to criminal elements out there, and also to the community, that we are not going to hide behind high walls and electric fencing and not go out and not enjoy our lives.
“We are going to go back to 7th Street and support those restaurants and we’re going to live our lives,” Davel said.
He added that the vigil was aimed at honouring the victims of the shooting and to create a sense of community.
“Right now, this is a very raw open wound and, I think, that needs to be taken care of first… there is an emotional component to this that needs healing and needs to be taken care of first,” Davel explained.
Davel said the reaction to the announcement of the vigil had been incredibly positive.
“Since posting this [on Facebook], a lot of the negative comments, people attacking each other, has suddenly gone.
“I tried to voice this in a positive way, to say just remember that there are people that have died, there are families in mourning… let’s rather stand together and mourn them and acknowledge what happened in solidarity,” Davel said.