Death of a street child 16 Days of Ac­tivism no help to kids

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - BIANCA CA­PA­ZO­RIO

ZAIRE Agh­mat would in­tro­duce him­self and his pet: “I’m Zakkie and this is my dog Lucky.”

Zakkie, 16, be­came the un­of­fi­cial face of city street chil­dren liv­ing in Long Street. He had lived on the street for most of his life, and he and his older brother Moga­mat were well­known. The two were in­sep­a­ra­ble, “a unit”, says Linzi Thomas of the NGO Mylife. But Zakkie died on Sun­day. Ger­ald Ja­cobs, a so­cial worker with the NGO Mame­lani, says Zakkie was so well known that while on a re­cent hol­i­day to Mozam­bique, he had been chat­ting to some­one about his work and the per­son said: “Do you know Zakkie?”

In video footage shot by film maker John Bowey a few years ago, Zakkie demon­strated, us­ing Lucky, how se­cu­rity guards and the po­lice would pat him down. Zakkie had a crack co­caine habit and was of­ten in trou­ble with the law. He was a fre­quent cus­tomer at the drug dens of Se­na­tor Park.

“Some­times he would spend up to R1 400 a day on crack,” Thomas said.

In other footage by Bowey, Zakkie is smil­ing, hold­ing Lucky, who is wear­ing a pair of sun­glasses. He says he wants to be a jockey. Later, he’s cry­ing. Moga­mat is be­ing sent to re­hab in Tul­bagh but Zakkie is too young to go.

Fast for­ward a few years and Moga­mat and Zakkie are back on the street. Their mother, known as Mumps, died in 2008. Their fa­ther is still alive and liv­ing in Delft. In re­cent times, Zakkie went there a lot too. Ja­cobs said this week he thought Moga­mat was also there.

“Those boys loved their mother,” says Su­san Rabi­nowitz, who of­ten works with street chil­dren.

Mark Wil­liams of the Cen­tral City Im­prove­ment District (CCID) field work team, who of­ten worked with Zakkie and drove him to the clinic for his med­i­ca­tion, says Zakkie was like a yacht with no sail.

“That main sail that gave him di­rec­tion in his life was gone.”

On Thurs­day, Zakkie, who had been ill for some time, was taken to Tyger­berg hos­pi­tal. He died on Sun­day.

In 2008 Amer­i­can ac­tivist Ryan Dal­ton spent the 16 Days of Ac­tivism liv­ing on the city streets and Zakkie and Moga­mat took him un­der their wing.

He wrote on his blog this week: “Any­body who knew Zakkie will re­mem­ber him for be­ing a lit­tle ball of en­ergy and life… be­cause Zakkie and his brother Moga­mat are as pop­u­lar in Cape Town, on Long Street, as Ta­ble Moun­tain. There is not a tourist alive that hasn’t run into them at some point, and they are both loved dearly by their street fam­ily.”

Dal­ton later wrote a song, in­spired by Zakkie, called So Young.

“I’ll re­mem­ber Zakkie for his great sense of humour, his funny lit­tle laugh, and his enor­mous per­son­al­ity tightly packed in his tiny lit­tle body,” Dal­ton wrote.

Bowey ar­ranged to have Zakkie buried ac­cord­ing to Mus­lim rites. But the ve­hi­cle to trans­port his body to the burial ground never ar­rived. Bowey fetched the body and the imam and en­sured that he was buried be­fore the sun went down.

An­other of Bowey’s doc­u­men­taries shows Zakkie walk­ing past school chil­dren in Long Street. The black and white footage is slowed down, and it high­lights Zakkie’s uncer­tainty, the sag in his shoul­ders as the other chil­dren laugh and smile.

And yet, de­spite his small size, Wil­liams says he thought of Zakkie as a “big man”, who was “al­ways fight­ing for him­self ”.

“This past month though, I got to know him as a lit­tle boy. I took him to the clinic re­cently and af­ter­wards I took him shop­ping. He wanted a packet of chips – that’s the lit­tle boy in him. But he also wanted some­thing he could take back and share with the oth­ers.”

Those who knew Zakkie de­scribe him as “charm­ing”, “smi­ley” and “gen­er­ous”.

And it’s pre­cisely be­cause of this that they don’t want his death to be in vain. Thomas says she knows of three chil­dren who died on the streets this week.

“We’re in the mid­dle of the 16 Days of Ac­tivism. Why are chil­dren still slip­ping through the net? I was on the street yes­ter­day and I met two boys who had just ar­rived from Laven­der Hill. They told me they would rather sleep on the street, be­cause they don’t want to die in the vi­o­lence in their com­mu­nity,” said Thomas.

“Zakkie was spend­ing up to R1 400 a night on crack co­caine. Where was he get­ting that money? He was get­ting it from peo­ple who just gave him money out of pity and a lot of these kids get it from pae­dophiles,” she said.

Ja­cobs said: “The NGOS need to work more closely with each other. And now in De­cem­ber, Cape Town is boom­ing with tourists who are go­ing to give these kids money. They must not do it.”

bianca.ca­pa­zo­rio@inl.co.za

PIC­TURE: SUPPLIED

MR SUN­SHINE: Those who knew him said Zakkie was a smil­ing, happy child.

PIC­TURE: SUPPLIED

BROTH­ERS IN ARMS: Zakkie and his brother Moga­mat, who were in­sep­a­ra­ble.

PIC­TURE: JEF­FREY ABRA­HAMS

ON THE STREETS: NGO work­ers say they want to use Zakkie’s death to raise aware­ness of other street chil­dren, like Shane Smith, who also lives on Long Street.

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