Residents fed up with gang violence

HAZEL ALLIES-HUSSELMAN

Our lives matter. This is the message Bonteheuwel residents made clear when they marched through the streets on Sunday April 24 to demand more police visibility and resources for the area.

The community has been plagued by ongoing gang violence with reports of daily shootings – leaving residents in fear of stepping out of their homes.

About 400 people – some whom were religious leaders – undertook a three-hour walk from the Bonteheuwel multi-purpose centre, via Golden Gate (Netreg), and back to Freedom Square, where a memorandum was handed to Nyanga cluster commander Major-General Vincent Beaton and deputy provincial commissioner for operational services Major General Thembisile Patekile.

The Bonteheuwel Joint Peace Forum (JPF), asked that the police respond to the memorandum within seven days.

A campaign, #IAMBONTEHEUWEL, was also launched a few weeks ago on Facebook’s Official Bonteheuwel Group. It encourages residents to take responsibility and make positive changes and to take pride in their neighbourhood.

While walking through the area, the marchers chanted “We want peace. We’re taking back our streets” and “Forward we shall march to a better Bonteheuwel”.

JPF secretary Geraldine Kennedy said: “The residents of Bonteheuwel have come together in unity, anger and despair. This place we call home, and we proclaim to every gangster and all those in authority who have the power to change things, that our lives matter.”

Several concerns listed in the memorandum, are:

* The situation in Bonteheuwel is dire and critical and emergency action is required to assist the residents who are held hostage by a small group of violent drug dealers and gangsters.

* Residents are fearful of allowing their children to go to school or work for fear of them being robbed, stabbed and shot.

* That the lack of police visibility and effectiveness and residents’ fear of gang retaliations leaves families not willing to simply volunteer information to the SAPS and other law enforcement agencies.

* The failure of appropriate follow-through on gang-related cases aggravates the already terrible situation.

The memorandum also states that the “lack of efficient resourcing measures is at the root of our challenges to ensure effective policing and appears to be designed to keep this community and other poverty stricken areas ineffective and unable to grow”.

Residents demand more police visibility at schools, the deployment of extra resources and special police units to Cape Flats areas, that all gang-related cases from the greater Bonteheuwel area be prioritised and escalated to the Cape Town High Court, and that the police stop granting “quick police bail” to known and habitual offenders as well as those suspected of robberies, assaults, and drug offences.

Aneesah Haupt, 19, is an athlete and student who finished fifth in the SA Champs for the 200 metre race for the women’s under-23, addressed the marchers.

“I train five times a week. I have a busy schedule juggling my training with my studies. I choose to do athletics. I choose not to allow negative influences in my life. I choose to make something of myself. I choose to live in Bonteheuwel, because I am Bonteheuwel. The movement starts with me, and our lives matter,” Aneesah said, while the crowd cheered in agreement.