Praying for peace

HAZEL ALLIES-HUSSELMAN

How long must our people suffer? This was the impassioned plea from Reverend Marcus Slingers during his prayer, after a memorial march in honour of mothers Shameeha Adams, 35, Sharon Saban, 50, as well as Faizel Jacobs, 33, who were killed in gang violence in Manenberg (“March for murdered moms”, Athlone News, February 24).

Reverend Slingers, from the Anglican Church of Reconciliation, asked the crowd to hold hands – in a show of solidarity – and sharing in one another’s pain. His prayer sparked a lot of emotion, with most of the marchers echoing his appeal for God’s mercy.

The march, on Thursday February 25, started off with a small group of people, but the crowd grew as they made their way from Thames Avenue, along Manenberg Avenue, stopping at the traffic circle. The crowd chanted “justice for our innocent” and “no bail for the shooters”. And while the march was on, there was a big presence of police who were busy with an integrated crime-fighting initiative, called Operation Lockdown.

By the time the march ended, hundreds of people had gathered on a vacant piece of land next to the traffic circle, where various speakers from the community addressed them. It was also there where religious leaders were asked to lead the marchers in prayer. The crowd also stopped on the corner of Renoster Road – the place where Ms Saban was killed – for a moment of silence. Among the marchers were Ms Saban’s two daughters, aged 19 and 13 – the youngest of her eight children, as well as her 70-year-old mother, Grace Steyn.

An emotional Ms Steyn said she thinks of her daughter every day. Just a few minutes before Ms Saban’s death, the mother and daughter greeted one another after they had spent the day together, attending a relative’s funeral.

“I read the newspaper every day, and I read about these things, but I would have never suspected that this would be coming our way. I pray to God to give me the strength to go on. Sharon celebrated her 50th birthday in November last year, and just a month before that – in October – her father died. A day before her death, she was not feeling well, and when I asked her how she was doing, she quoted a Bible verse where God says we must call upon Him in our time of distress. She was a people’s person who always had a smile on her face – even if she had problems, she would never show it,” Ms Steyn said.

Mr Jacobs’ grandmother, Asa Isaacs, said she had raised him since he was a three-month-old baby.

“Faizel was nie ’* kind vir moeilikheid nie. Hy was nog nooit deel van ’* gang nie. Dis hartseer dat hy nie meer met ons is nie, maar ek moet maar net sterk wees en die Here vra om my te hou,” Ms Isaacs said.

Trevor Henry, known in the community for his involvement with a cycling club, said he was “doing his bit” to try and stop young people from joining gangs.

“Today we are here because mothers died in our community. This is so sad. If we don’t stand up for our mothers, then I feel sorry for our community, or should we wait for more mothers to die?” Mr Henry asked.

When Roegchanda Pascoe, chairperson of the Manenberg Safety Forum, addressed the marchers, the big crowd roared in support of her words.

“I want those people who cover up illegal activities to know that there is no place for them in Manenberg. We can’t demand the police must do their work, and then we hide the guns in our homes. Gangsters must also realise that they too, have mothers, brothers, sisters and families – and their actions hurt their families too. The children of the two mothers who were killed, lost their mothers in the most brutal way, but let me assure you that there is hope.

“Do not let their deaths be in vain. Let something good come from their deaths. As long as we breathe, there is hope. Manenberg’s people have hearts of gold. If you didn’t have love for one another, none of you would be here, so let us continue to fight this good fight,” Ms Pascoe said.

* Operation Lockdown, a joint operation between SAPS, Metro police and Law Enforcement’s stability unit, is still continuing in the area, and according to Manenberg SAPS spokesperson, Lieutenant Ian Bennett, the efforts of these law enforcement agencies, have resulted in the area becoming “much quieter”.

“The operation is contributing significantly to the current reduction in crime and gang activities within the Manenberg policing precinct. As policing agencies, we are serious and committed in bringing about calm in the area and ensuring that the community’s human right for freedom of movement, is protected. The members saturated the identified hot spot areas, Lieutenant Bennett said.