“We cannot say that we are free until a child can walk to school without the walking bus,” said director of the Trauma Centre, Zelda van Reenen, at a Freedom Day event last Friday.
Freedom Day is celebrated every year on April 27 in commemoration of the first post-apartheid elections held on that day in 1994.
Community members, including mothers who have lost their children to gang violence, met at the Verenigde Gereformeerde Kerk (VGK) in Manenberg where various speakers spoke about uplifting Manenberg and putting an end to the ongoing crime and gang violence in the area.
Human rights commissioner, Chris Nissen, said that parents and adults have a responsibility to protect their children.
“We cannot place a police officer in each household. It is the parents’ duty to take care of their children. What is happening to us on the Cape Flats and in the Western Cape? The pain and suffering of our people is all over and that is because we keep quiet. Satisfying other people’s agendas because we don’t want to rock the boat. The problem doesn’t lay with the government, it lays with the community,” he said.
He said that community members should be the first line of protection for each other.
“The problem is the criminal justice system and the police who are not deploying their resources properly. The gangsters are bribing the police – every gang lord has about three to five police on their payroll. The police get paid too little and fall for their bribes,” said Mr Nissen.
He said for the Human Rights Commission to take government to task, the community needs to draw up affidavits about what is happening in the area.
“Our people can’t suffer anymore. We need action for the sake of our children and the future. We need to stop pushing each other down and looking down on each other. We should support each other and stand up for ourselves. Stop being quiet, let’s stop talking and let’s act but let’s do it together,” he said.
Manenberg police station’s spokesman, Captain Ian Bennett, said Manenberg is a good place with good people but they are trapped by various social ills which the community has become accustomed to.
“Our children need to feel safe in their communities so that they may flourish and achieve their goals. So many young people have died because of crime and gangsterism and they don’t get to achieve what they set out to,” he said.
Captain Bennett said the community needs to seek help and advice, especially from the elderly as they are the most knowledgeable.
“So many parents want their children to display responsible behaviour but they do not. As the police we have been trying to intervene by speaking to the youth and we stay involved until high school level. Ultimately policing starts with parents but they don’t understand that,” he said.
Captain Bennett said the youngest person to be arrested for the possession of a gun in their precinct is 8 years old and the youngest arrested for murder is 14 years old.
“Jail is not for everyone and is not a place for young people to end up. Young people need to make decisions to be great because they were born to be great. Educate yourselves. The high schools have less and less children every year, where are our children?” he asked.
He said parents need to spend more time with their children and believe in them. “Our children are so talented but they are mostly involved with drugs and gangsterism. We need to speak up, the silence is killing us. Nobody speaks up about the wrong. Everyone knows when the shooting will start but nobody will inform the police,” said Captain Bennett.
He urged the community to work with the police and challenged residents to make a change in their own homes. “We need to serve our community. I challenge you all to make a change in your homes first and this will spiral out to the rest of the community,” he said.
Kashiefa Mohammad from Hanover Park was one of the mothers present at the event. She said her 17-year-old son was murdered in November 19 last year.
“I have been fighting for justice for over a year for my son. Justice will be served for the killing of my child. I was a role model for my child. He was not a gangster. Stand up for your children. I had a R100000 hit put out to kill me but I fought for my child. Take back what belongs to you. Don’t let the gangsters hold you hostage. Take back your streets,” she urged.
Valdi van Reenen, the director of the Trauma Centre, said we are not free until a child can walk to school without the walking bus.
“I am tired of families being blamed for the way things are. Freedom is not entirely there for our country. We can’t walk where we want to, or wear what we want. Where our children are homeless there are drug dealers in rental stock. We are not free or safe to walk in our roads or take our kids to school,” she said.
She said because people get paid minimum wage and sometimes even less, they are forced to buy goods from syndicates for a cheaper price such as bread and nappies for their children.
“We need to start realising that people turn to gangsterism for money – it is a paying career. People are forced to be part of the cycle. We blame the mom when the child gets hurt or something happens to the child. We need to ask ourselves why must the mother and child go to a shelter when the husband abuses them? He sits in his house and waits for her to return. The honeymoon phase lasts for two to three weeks and then it (abuse) starts again,” she said.
Ms Van Reenen called on all community organisations to step up.
“Change people’s mindsets. Stop handing out soup – yes they need it but they need a holistic change or we will forever have this problem. We all have problems in our homes but the problems are deeper than that,” she said.