Bokmakierie leaders are calling on residents to unite and share their skills with each other to build the community.
A meeting initiated by the Bokmakierie Interim Steering Committee (BISC) brought together organisations including Breaking Barriers and the community police forum (CPF) as well as Muslim and Christian religious leaders and Athlone police on Thursday May 18.
The aim was to identify organisations in the community which could develop the area and keep youth away from gangsterism.
Ward councillor Rashid Adams also attended the meeting which was held at Bokmakierie Primary School and was chaired by resident Mogamat Noor Jacobs.
Mr Jacobs said BISC was not established to fight crime but rather to unite the community and develop it by using the skills of people in the area.
However, he highlighted some of the area’s challenges, which included gang violence.
One of the methods he said the BISC used to try and prevent people from getting caught in gang crossfire, was recording the times when shots were fired in the area.
In this way they were able to let the community know when it could be safe to walk around in the area and when the peak shooting times were.
Other problems included damage to school property and the sports field ; vagrants, lack of maintenance and broken gym equipment in the parks, which deter children from playing there; illegal dumping, broken fences; stolen cables; and trees which are hanging over cables.
Mr Jacobs said people needed to be held accountable for damages.
Another major problem, he said, was that the river bank walls, which ran along the N2, was collapsing which meant the residents living in houses built on the bank faced major problems.
He also said crime and gangsterism levels have increased. “In order to change this we need to change the mindset of the people in the area. People don’t know about the organisations which can help them. We need to have a open day for everyone to come and see what there is,” he said.
Part of the solution, he said, was that they needed to develop programmes for the youth to divert them from gangsterism.
“Community leaders must have access to buildings in Athlone to host these programmes. Children can’t just play soccer there needs to be a different sports.”
Athlone CPF chairperson Aziza Kannemeyer said change was possible but the residents of Bokmakierie needed to stop judging each other and unite. “Our mindsets needs to change and once that happens change can happen. We need to get to the real issues of the community and not think about our egos,” she said.
Latiefa Ajam, liaison officer for the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport, said the lack of resources made it difficult to create programmes.
“We want our children to become involved with sport,” she said.
Mr Jacobs added that people needed to start volunteering their skills to uplift the community.