Looking back at the stories that made the headlines in 2021

Despite the challenges over the past year, communities across the greater Athlone area have shown how resilient they are, and how they help one another.

With Covid-19 still significantly impacting our daily lives, the year started off on a sad note, when the emotional trauma as a result of the death toll became unbearable for clerics in the greater Athlone area.

In January, the Athlone News reported on this when representatives of mosques and churches spoke about the impact the amount of funerals had on them (“Covid-19 funerals spike”, January 13).

In February, clerics made the headlines again, but this time, they took the lead in the fight against illegal drug trade. The Bridgetown community worked closely with religious leaders in an effort to close down drug houses. This entailed the community identifying the drug houses and the clerics visiting the families to find out why they sell drugs, to ask them to stop and to pray for them (“Clerics help close Bridgetown drug houses”, February 10).

Just a month later, the Kewtown community also took a stand against known drug dens in their area. This, after robberies spiked and residents started fearing for their lives (“Anger over Kewtown drug den”, March 3).

All was not doom and gloom though, as Bonteheuwel’s Freedom Square was recognised as a provincial heritage site. On Monday March 8, Cultural Affairs and Sport MEC, Anroux Marais unveiled a plaque there in celebration of this (“Freedom Square: a symbol of sacrifice and struggle”, March 17).

A Gleemoor family who lost their home to a fire, said they gained so much more when they were overwhelmed with the community’s kindness. They shared their story in April (“Family finds kindness in the ashes”, April 14).

In May, community leaders raised their concern about more children joining gangs. This, they believed, was because of the disruptive school year, brought on by Covid-19 pandemic (“More children joining gangs”, May 5).

Sadly, early on in June, another fire claimed the lives of a grandmother and her two grandsons in Bonteheuwel (“Fire kills granny and grandsons”, June 9).

The heavy downpours in July forced many Bonteheuwel residents to remain indoors, as the roads were flooded (“Heavy rain floods roads”, July 7)

The Manenberg community was rocked by a serial cat killer, and by early August, at least 25 cats were killed and disembowelled in the area (“Manenberg residents fear more cat killings”, August 4).

Another two house fires, which happened on the same day in Bonteheuwel, left 11 people displaced in September (“Two house fires in a single day”, September 22)

In November the country flocked to voting stations again to make their mark in the local government elections. Despite voter turnout being low, those the Athlone News spoke to, still had high hopes for their community.

In December, the Athlone News reported on the launch of a “first-of-its-kind” intervention that will explore alternative measures instead of imprisoning women in conflict with the law. Research has shown that women who commit petty crime do so most times to cope or survive, as a result of gender-based violence (GBV) (“Project seeks alternatives to jailing women”, December 8).