It was about three o’clock on Monday afternoon when Tasmeen Simons spotted the three young men approaching her house in Manenberg, a township on the outskirts of Cape Town.
Tasmeen, 22, didn’t say anything, but her mother thinks she must have sensed something was wrong, because she stopped gathering in the washing from outside their tiny one bedroom house and shoved her sister out of the way.
It was an act of selflessness that cost her life.
“I didn’t hear the shot. I just heard this lost screaming and shouting, so I ran out and there she was, lying on the ground,” said Jasmine Simons, 54. “It didn’t used to be like this round here. This was the good side of Manenberg.”
Police believe Tasmeen was killed unintentionally, the latest of hundreds of victims of cross fire in a gang war that has brought carnage and fear to South Africa’s most affluent city.
The Cape Flats, the sprawling area of townships including Manenberg south of Cape Town, have always been rough.
But over the past few years a drug-fueled crime wave has wrought carnage on a scale that residents, police officers, and even former gangsters liken to a war zone.
More than 2000 people have been killed in Cape Town’s poorest predominantly black and mixed race neighbourhoods over the past seven months. Almost half of those killings were gang related. There were 43 murders over the last weekend alone.
Last week, after a particularly horrific 24 hours in which 13 people were murdered, president Cyril Rhamaphosa announced he would send in the army.
The move was welcomed by the Democratic Alliance, the opposition party that controls the Western Cape province, and when the troops finally rolled in on their huge Caspir armoured vehicles on Thursday they were greeted by cheering children and large crowds who watched more with bemusement than hostility.
“It’s good,” said a 22 year old man called Adam as camouflaged soldiers brandishing R4 assault rifles fanned out across a part of Manenberg controlled by the Hard Livings, one of the most powerful gangs, on Thursday afternoon.
“But what do you think’s going to happen when they’ve gone? The shooting’s gonna start,” he laughed. “So what’s the use?”
The same question was repeated by dozens of residents across the townships this week.
For everyone here understands that ending the nightmare on the Cape Flats will take much more than a show of force.
South Africa’s gang culture began to form more than a century ago in colonial-era prisons.
But most locals trace the current crisis to 1966, when Apartheid authorities declared the city’s District Six a whites only area.
Over the next decade, tens of thousands of black and mixed-race families were moved into hastily built housing projects on a bleak coastal plain south of the city.
Poorly built, isolated, and with few facilities, the new townships on the Cape Flats could almost have been intentionally designed to breed unemployment and crime.
Those displaced included Shaida Adams, now 73, and her son Turner, 54.
“I was born in district six, I went to school there, and one day they said ‘you’ve got to go,’’ Mrs Adams said in an interview in the single-storey breezeblock home in Lavender Hill, a township now so violent it is colloquially known as “kill me quick.”
“It was pathetic. There was nothing here, there were not even schools. The children didn’t have any facilities. And about 10 years after that the crime began, because there was nothing else for the kids to do,” she said.
Those kids included her own son.
The young Mr Adams found it difficult to settle into the new township, and quickly fell in with a group called the Cape Town Scorpions.
Finding he was “good with a knife,” he says he committed his first murder at the age of 13, convicted for the first time at 16, and in and out of adult jails from 18.
By the time he emerged from his last prison spell in the 2000s, he was a respected and feared “captain” in the 28s, one of the South Africa’s most notorious prison gangs.
At 54, he says his criminal career is behind him. But he is looking on anxiously as new generations of his family enter the same cycle. Last year, his 22-year-old nephew was murdered in a gang related killing, and he is “incredibly worried” about his 11 year old cousin, who is just reaching gang recruitment age.
For kids born on the Flats, he points out, there are few other options.
“Eighty to eighty five percent of all the people who live here are affiliated with the gangs one way or another,” he explained.
“You might not be in a gang, but if a family member is, then you’re connected. If you’ve got a kid in a gang, the mothers will hide the guns, or the drugs,” he said.
The townships are places of visible and astounding poverty.
Few adults are in full time employment, families of 20 people are crammed into one-bedroom homes, and the only play facilities for children in crumbling three-story apartment blocks of 60 households is a single rusting slide.
The threat of violence is ever present, the sound of gunfire heard on a near-nightly basis, and the overgrown playing fields are used not for football but as "battle grounds" where rag-tag teenage armies engage in deadly gunfights.
Like in a real warzone, the sides occasionally agree to "ceasefires" which inevitably break down. Unlike a conventional war zone, there are no frontlines, no rear areas, and no rules.
The townships are also heavily segregated, and underlying everything is the poisonous legacy of Apartheid-era race politics.
Many of the townships, including Manenburg and Lavender Hill, are solidly Afrikaans-speaking mixed race areas where many residents are bitterly resentful of both South Africa’s well off white minority and the black majority.
Mr Adams, the reformed gangster, voices a widespread perception that the ruling ANC abandoned the mixed race community after the fall of Apartheid and treats them as second class citizens.
Democracy, he bitterly reflects, brought his community little. "The Whites can talk about the British putting them in concentration camps. The Blacks can talk about 40 years of apartheid. But who listens to the coloured folks?" he asks rhetorically.
But the most terrifying change came with the arrival of an epidemic of crystal meth – known as “tik” in Afrikaans slang - several years ago.
Since then, he says, the violence has trebled, and when once men grown men would fight with knives, increasingly young children are being employed to kill people with guns.
“Back in the day, gangsters had respect. They had respect for old people, they had respect for children,” he insisted. “These kids will do anything.”
While that might sound like the self-justifying gripe of a retired criminal, it is a pattern recognised by Major General Andre Lincoln, the policeman in charge of Cape Town’s anti-gang unit and himself a child of gang-run areas.
Launched in November by president Ramaphosa, the AGU is the first ever dedicated anti-gang law enforcement organisation.
In an interview at Manenberg police station, just down the road from the scene of Tasmeen Simons' murder, Maj Gen Lincoln said his intention is to "take down the gangs," not just respond to violent crime.
But his 200 personnel face an uphill struggle.
Maj Gen Lincoln estimates there are over 90 gangs operating in the Western Cape, controlling a criminal economy worth millions of dollars and encompassing everything from drug dealing to vehicle theft and extorting protection money from night clubs.
The local dynamics are complex, with teenagers providing the foot soldiers, but top bosses residing in lush suburbs well away from the townships and directions for gang activity often coming from criminal authorities in prison.
And lives are lost over pitifully small patches of turf.
In Derwent court, two blocks of three-storey flats facing one another across a concrete courtyard in the township of Hanover Park, a gang called the Ghettos are engaged in a forever war with rivals from identical flats on the other side of an overgrown playing field.
Once upon a time the battle was for control of a nearby alleyway where passengers from the nearby bus station would buy drugs. These days, said Mohammed, a local father who declined to give his surname, the killers are younger, and the motives even bleaker.
“Now there’s a gang war so no one is selling drugs there. No one makes money when there is fighting,” he said. “They’re doing it just so someone else doesn’t shoot them first.”
Thirty-five residents of the court have been killed since 2012.
Raids and arrests in the Cape Flats will only go so far, says General Lincoln. The emphasis has to be on targeting the gangs' financial flows and top bosses, which means looking further afield.
"We're getting there," he said when asked if he had yet made any arrests in the upscale neighbourhoods at the foot of Table Mountain, but would not be drawn on operational details.
Then there is addressing the poverty and deprivation at the core of the crime wave. Social services, school engagement, and addressing basic issues of justice are all key elements.
But the biggest and most basic challenge is getting the local community to trust the police - who many locals view as corrupt, brutal, and even in league with the gangs.
And there is a widespread conviction that corrupt officers have been tipping off gangs where to find people who have accepted witness protection programs.
The problem, Maj Gen Lincoln flatly admits, is real, and one reason his unit was created. “The purpose of the Anti Gang Unit is to address that – to show that the police can be trusted,” he said.
“Trust is something I take personally and very seriously,” he said. “If the community doesn’t trust you, you can’t solve anything.”
“I want to be able to get to a point where mothers on the Cape Flats are not going to hide their children,” he added.
In that sense, the case of Tasmeen Simon’s murder is an early success.
Several witness came forward, and twenty minutes after police spoke to the alleged shooter's mother, she frogmarched the 18 year old suspect into the police station.
He had been involved in a fight involving the Fancy Boys, a gang who have occupied a house next door to the Simons’.
The prospect of justice is scant comfort to Tasmeen’s surviving family. But they say they are determined to clean up their neighbourhood.
“We want our streets back,” said Mrs Simons, with understated fury. “We want them back for the children.”