Belinda Moore's short life ended abruptly Wednesday morning before daylight when a bullet struck her as she lay on her bed in her family's corrugated iron shack in the poorest area of this segregated, crime-ridden ghetto.
The 17-month-old baby died in the outfurst of rioting in Cape Town's Colored (mixed race) community Tuesday night. Like several other victims, Belinda was a casualty of a police bullett apparently shot at random and in panic. In their shanty, the baby's relatives said today that Belinda was killed when police fired at a crowd of people standing about a hundred yards away from the house.
"Why did they shoot over here when there was no trouble here?" the relatives asked.
The death toll from the Cape Town riots remains in dispute. While the government says 30 were killed, newspapers place the number of dead at 42 based on information received from hospitals.
Several residents of the affected areas complained about overzealous and random use of firearms by police during the rioting and some say the number of deaths is excessive in view of the amount of damage in the Colored townships.
Economic deprivation provided the kindling for the outburst. All agree that gangs of hooligans took advantage of the situation to loot and burn shops. But Colored leaders and residents here say that last week's government order prohibiting meetings and heavy-handedness by police in the hours before the rioting were major factors in sparking the turmoil.
The ban on meetings forced cancellation of memorial services planned across the country for the 575 people who died in rioting that began June 16, 1976 in the back Soweto township outside Johannesburg and spread to other parts of the country.
The ban appears to have been motivated by authorities' fears that the police were spread too thin if unrest that has simmered in several areas of the country in the last two months boiled over.
However, the ban appears to have backfired and the resentment it caused has increased the chances of future violence in black and Colored communities.
"Instead of being preoccupied with these memorial services, the people were left with nothing to do, so they found an outlet for frustration in other ways," a Colored editor said.
It was police action against some Coloreds who defied this ban Tuesday morning that ignited Ravensmead, one of the neighborhoods swept by violence Tuesday night, according to a Colored minister.
The police broke into a prayer meeting at a local Dutch Reformed Church. "It's ridiculous for a so-called Christian government to baton-charge people out of a church hall," the minister said.
By midday, police had sealed off Ravensmead, accoridng to a Colored high school teacher.
In the neighborhood of Bonteheuwel, police patroled in jeeps and harassed people who were complying with the two-day strike organized by community leaders and students to observe the anniversary of the 1976 riots.
By afternoon, hundred of teenagers gathered on both sides of the highway leading from Capetown to the airport and began to stone cars.
"The interesting thing was that they were only stoning expensive cars like Mercedes because they are the ones owned by whites," said a man who watched the scene.
When workers who had defied the strike returned from work, the violence took off. According to witnesses, students accosted those who had gone to work, called them "sellouts" and stoned cars. Tires were set ablaze in streets as barricades.
Soon, gangs began to roam as unrest escalated. Police moved to restore order with a combination of birdshot, tear gas, plastic bullets and live ammunition. Shooting could be heard throughout the night, residents said.
In contrast, the Coloreds note that Monday, the first day of the work strike when police did not enter the townships, was tranquil.
On Monday, Colored leaders were celebrating the success of the strike that involved an estimated 80 percent of the work force. Many businesses in Colored areas closed in solidarity with the boycott.
This success was diluted when "phony pamphlets" urging people to return to work on Tuesday were distributed in Colored areas, according to activists.
"This confused the people," an activist said and charged that the security police were responsible for the effort to destroy the work boycott.