Murder claimed baby Danny Zhong 22 years ago and last week it returned and took his mother and his father. Zhi-wei Zhong and his wife Xuejie Hua were gunned down in the Joburg CBD on the afternoon of August 13.

They died because they had made the decision years ago to not return to China but to stay in the place they called their second home – South Africa. The incident happened at 3.30 pm, on Village road, in Selby.

The couple, according to police were driving a BMW X5, when a white VW Polo stopped in front of them. Two suspects got out and opened fire, killing the husband and wife instantly.

As yet, police don’t know the motive of the killing and have appealed to members of the public to come forward if they know anything about the crime.

Now for a second time, in two decades, deaths in the Zhong family have mobilised the local Chinese community into taking action. And for a second time they are calling on a South African president to do something about the high crime rate that has claimed scores of Chinese lives in recent years.

It was in 1998 when Zhi-wei Zhong, still on crutches after being shot in the leg, met President Nelson Mandela. For the last couple of weeks his son’s smiling face had been a regular feature on the front pages of the nation’s papers.

South Africans were outraged by what appeared to be the deliberate shooting of a child. Media reports then told how at least two men had entered the couple’s Mr Beijing’s shop in the Joburg CBD.

During the crime, Danny was shot in the head, and his father was wounded in the leg. Police were able to arrest the two men at the scene.

Hua, who was three months pregnant, almost miscarried her child, after the shock of losing her firstborn. In protest, on July 14 1998, a Chinese delegation travelled to Pretoria and the Union Buildings to hand over a memorandum calling for the reinstatement of the death penalty.

From there the convoy made its way to Mandela’s residence in Houghton, where the then president met the family and members of the Chinese community.

There, standing outside his home, Mandela told the family: “I’ve said before that an invisible wound is very painful indeed because no doctors can treat it, no surgeon can stitch it, but what is important is the support of the community and the Zhong family is entitled to that support.”

The former president did at the time stress that their would be no return of the death penalty. At that time, Chinese leaders told the press that their community was living at the mercy of criminals and that the problem was just getting worse.

Two decades later, a new generation is voicing the same fears. “We are scared, because the government is not doing anything, and the police don’t catch people,” says Zhong’s friend Qing Fan. The Chinese community remember Zhong and Hua as kind people who were always helping the disadvantaged. Zhong had been the chairperson of the Shandong Overseas’ Association of Southern Africa.

The Chinese old age home, Hong Ning, sent its condolences and said the couple had supported them through the years. Fan said that his friend, a Chinese national, had a choice 22 years ago to leave South Africa, but had opted to stay. The couple went on to have two children after Danny’s death. They are both in their 20s and studying in the US.

Both their children have been unable to return to South Africa because of the Covid -19 travel ban. With this latest killing, the Chinese community is pressing President Cyril Ramaphosa to take action.

Former Joburg Public Safety MMC Michael Sun has organised a petition. “The reality is that there are a lot of Chinese traders in the Crown mines area and that trade attracts a criminal element.

“And criminals have found that it is easier to hit Chinese businesses, we probably on a weekly basis we get two to three incidents,” explains Sun, who is now a community leader. “The community feels that we are forever reporting these incidents and nothing gets done.”

The initial goal was to collect a thousand signatures, but Sun says now they are way over that. Once they have collected enough signatures, the plan will be to send it to the President, in the hope that finally voices are heard and the deaths that claimed the Zhong family over two generations will not be in vain.

By Sheree Bega


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