Minister meets organisers of Total Shutdown

After the communitys insistence, here Police Minister Bheki Cele, right, asks the City of Cape Towns mayoral committee member of safety and security, JP Smith, and Ward 50 councillor, Angus McKenzie, to leave the meeting.

Police Minister Bheki Cele was scheduled to meet with organisers of the Total Shutdown Movement – this which to jumpstart an initiative through which the community hopes to find a solution to the ongoing gang violence and socio-economic challenges on the Cape Flats.

On Wednesday September 26, Mr Bheki hosted a meeting in Bonteheuwel, with protesters who took part in the Total Shutdown campaign on Tuesday September 25. On this day, a number of communities took to the streets to voice their concerns over the constant fear of living in a gang-infested community.

It was after photographs and videos of police mishandling peaceful protesters went viral on social media, and when Human Rights Commissioner, Reverend Chris Nissen, was called in to assist, that the meeting on Wednesday – a day after the protest – was arranged. Eight of the protesters were arrested for public violence, but all of their cases have since been struck off the court roll.

One of the activists, Henriette Abrahams, who was among those arrested, told Mr Cele at the meeting last week that certain parts of the Western Cape must be declared disaster areas.

“The solutions that must come, must be similar to (reaction to) the drought we experienced, and the fire that happened in Knysna. We want the same resources and priority as shown there.

“If our children have a disease of drug abuse, why must they be criminalised? We also want police visibility in hot spots, because our children need to go to school and people need to get to work. We want a working class summit. I invite you to my house for a week – you will hear how the bullets are flying. Our children are dying. We need solutions now,” Ms Abrahams said.

An emotional Nadia Mayman de Grass, cried as she detailed the Bonteheuwel Joint Peace Forum’s attempts over the years to find peaceful solutions to the gang violence.

“Bonteheuwel did not just sit back. We have taken responsibility, and we have not just waited on the government to resolve our challenges,” Ms Mayman de Grass said.

Another activist, Abdul Karriem Matthews, criticised the police’s handling of protesters who held peaceful demonstrations.

“When we arranged the shutdowns, we agreed that there will be no violence, no stone throwing, no damage to property, and it is a miracle that there was no retaliation. We are not agitators. We are angry, which is manifested by deep trauma. They had their hands on the trigger for unarmed protesters,” Mr Matthews said.

Mr Cele said he was willing to work with the Total Shutdown committee to find “permanent solutions – from the bottom up”.

Addressing the community
at last week’s meeting, he said:
“I know you are under stress.
Children are not supposed to
be locked up like chickens in
a hok. Our children must be given an opportunity to be able to
grow as children. The situation cannot be changed by the
police alone. One of the stakeholders is the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). There should be no bail for repeat criminals. We also need to improve on the relationship between the police and the community. We will not impose on the community, but listen to you.”