Living in terror

Manenberg children are always on high alert for gang violence, according to a community leader there. This is just one of the windows riddled with bullet holes at the Arendse household.

A Manenberg family have decided not to replace their windows any longer, because as soon as they are replaced, they are destroyed by bullets again.

The Arendse family’s home is situated in the firing line of rival gangsters, and in one of the most recent incidents, a bullet narrowly missed their 80-year-old grandfather, when it smashed through his window as he was relaxing on a chair in his room. The family no longer sit in their lounge, and even disconnected their television, as this room is the most vulnerable when it comes to gang shootings.

With the situation still tense, the Athlone News reporter, who was interviewing the family in the lounge, was warned of imminent danger, and was asked to move to the kitchen to continue.

They no longer use their front door either, and instead decided to board it up, as it is riddled with bullet holes as well.

Manenberg SAPS spokesperson, Captain Ian Bennett, said five people had been shot and killed between Sunday April 1 and Monday April 9. There were also several attempted murder incidents.

On Saturday April 7, a 42-year-old man was shot and killed in Sonderend Road, and a 33-year-old man was shot and killed in Sabie Walk. On that same day, two 22-year-olds were shot in their ankles and a 23-year-old was killed in Stormsriver Road.

On Thursday April 5, a 22-year-old was arrested for the murder of a 33-year-old man in Scheldt Walk. The shooter was identified by closed circuit television (CCTV) footage. On Friday April 6, an attempted murder case was opened after a 38-year-old man was shot in Renoster Walk.

“A special operation room has been set up by station commander, Brigadier Enolium Joseph, to specifically deal with gang violence. We are investigating and we are making arrests, but we need the community to work with us. The challenge is nobody is prepared to talk to us,” Captain Bennett said.

From Sunday April 1 to Tuesday April 3, bullets flew through the Arendse house again.

“On Sunday evening my husband was nearly hit by a bullet in his back. He is our breadwinner. What will happen if we should lose him? A bullet also narrowly missed my 80-year-old father-in-law. We are not safe in our own home. My 11-year-old son, who has a hearing impairment, takes out his hearing aids in order not to hear the gunshots. It was quiet for a long time, but now the gang violence started flaring up again since Sunday,” said Ilhaam Arendse.

Her daughter, Fawaziyah Smith, said she had to phone the police the morning of Monday April 2, so that she was able to get out of the house to make her way to work. “There was continuous shooting, which started just after 4am on that Monday morning. I was too scared to put my foot out of the door,” Ms Smith said.

Ms Arendse expressed concern for the children who would need to attend school, as it reopened yesterday.

“It is very difficult for the children here to walk to school when the gang violence is rife. It is not fair towards our children. The gangsters are robbing our children of their education,” she said.

Roegchanda Pascoe, chairperson of the Manenberg Safety Forum, said children, including her own, were traumatised because of the shootings.

“My four-year-old grandson has started to wet himself, and my two-year-old granddaughter refused to get out of the room – not even to get something to eat. The two of them were playing in our backyard when the bullets came flying over. I saw the bullet sparks as it landed in my yard. This horrible experience was so traumatic for them. Generally, the children in Manenberg are constantly on high alert. They are always on guard. How are they expected to learn at school, or even play, when they constantly need to look out for when the next gang fight is going to happen? To the children, it is all about survival. They all walk around in survival mode. People are fed up with this kind of life,” Ms Pascoe said.

The Manenberg Safety Forum will host a commemorative event on Freedom Day (Friday April 27), in memory of all the innocent lives lost through gang violence. She has asked the community to forward photographs of the deceased loved ones, with their names and dates of death. She also asked for survivors of gang violence to join this initiative.

“We want to start a register of all the victims, as we want to institute a class action against the state. The state has a responsibility towards us, and at the moment, the gangsters own the community’s lives. People on the Cape Flats don’t know what Freedom Day means, as we were never free,” Ms Pascoe said.

Meanwhile, Captain Bennett urged the community to phone Manenberg SAPS at 021 699 9400, with information about gangs.