Taking back the park

Hanover Park mothers have taken it upon themselves to protect their community, by forming a neighbourhood watch – after one too many gang-related killings.

Calling themselves Mothers of Hope, the group of 15 women live in one of the most volatile pockets of the area – Hanall Walk. Here gang violence is rife and at least 19 people lost their lives because of gang battles in this small section of Hanover Park over the past three years.

Chairperson of Mothers of Hope, Shireen Hendricks, said the group was formed last year, as the mothers could not stand seeing another young person losing their life because of gang violence.

Since they started patrolling, they had put their lives on the line many times, she said.
“Unfortunately, we live in an area which is considered the territory of the American gang. Our area is surrounded by rival gangs, and the saddest part is, the gangs use our children’s park as a battlefield. One night we were sitting in the park, and all of a sudden bullets rained over our heads,” Ms Hendricks said.

The group is appealing for a fence to be built around the park, in an effort to keep the children safe.

The park the women refer to is a tarred, netball pitch. There is no play equipment, but the women are hopeful of an upgrade.
“We have held many activities for the children in this broken park. We have to do something to keep the children occupied and to keep them safe. I also get a monthly sponsorship from Shoprite to host a soup kitchen, which is another thing we have in the park. We want to build a foundation where the children can be safe. We want to reclaim our place,” said Amiena Loggenberg, the deputy chairperson.

She also pointed out that they do not receive financial help, and all the activities they host, is being done from money they scrape together.

“We do it all from our own pockets. All of us at Mothers of Hope are stay-at-home mothers. We do not have a lot of money, but when we put our heads together, we make a project work,” Ms Loggenberg said.

According to Ms Hendricks, a City of Cape Town project, called Women for Change, is operating in Hanover Park, but that the women who belong to this group, are too scared to come to their area.

Mayor Patricia de Lille launched the Women for Change programme in 2016. With this programme, the City is aiming to empower and provide skills training to women who are tenants in the City’s rental stock.

The programme, in areas such as Hanover Park, Athlone, Manenberg, Uitsig, Lavender Hill and Ocean View, among others, was designed to help uplift City-owned rental stock these areas through addressing environmental and socio-economic challenges.
Ms Hendricks also alleged that the women who belong to this project in Hanover Park, have signed contracts which have now expired.

“I have been walking to ward 47 councillor, Antonio van der Rheede’s office for the past month now, but he is just never available. My understanding is that the Women for Change receive a stipend and have to sign contracts. The Hanover Park group’s contracts have expired now, but the same women’s contracts just get extended again. Why do they not give other women a chance on the programme? I tried to express my concerns around this with Mr Van Der Rheede, but he is just never available to meet with us.

A road upgrade project is under way in the area, and according to Ms Hendricks, who said she had spoken to the workers on the project, many of them have dropped out of school because of the gang violence.

“The gangsters even threaten the construction workers here, but we will not stand for that,” Ms Hendricks said.
Mothers of Hope is also concerned about illegal dumping next to the netball pitch, which poses a health risk.

In order to confirm whether Women for Change members do receive a stipend, and have to sign contracts, the Athlone News sent a list of questions to the City, but at the time of going to print, no response was received. The Athlone News also left voice and text messages for Mr Van Der Rheede, but he did not respond.

“Unfortunately, we live in an area which is considered the territory of the American gang. Our area is surrounded by rival gangs, and the saddest part is, the gangs use our children’s park as a battlefield. One night we were sitting in the park, and all of a sudden bullets rained over our heads,” Ms Hendricks said.

The group is appealing for a fence to be built around the park, in an effort to keep the children safe.

The park the women refer to is a tarred, netball pitch. There is no play equipment, but the women are hopeful of an upgrade.

“We have held many activities for the children in this broken park. We have to do something to keep the children occupied and to keep them safe. I also get a monthly sponsorship from Shoprite to host a soup kitchen, which is another thing we have in the park. We want to build a foundation where the children can be safe. We want to reclaim our place,” said Amiena Loggenberg, the deputy chairperson.

She said they do not get financial help, and all their activities are paid for by money they scrape together.

“We do it all from our own pockets. All of us at Mothers of Hope are stay-at-home mothers. We do not have a lot of money, but when we put our heads together, we make a project work,” Ms Loggenberg said.

According to Ms Hendricks, a City of Cape Town project, called Women for Change, is operating in Hanover Park, but that the women from this group, are too scared to come to their area.

Mayor Patricia de Lille launched the Women for Change programme in 2016, to empower and provide skills training to female tenants in the City’s rental stock.

The programme, in areas such as Hanover Park, Athlone, Manenberg, Uitsig, Lavender Hill and Ocean View, among others, was designed to help uplift these areas through addressing environmental and socio-economic challenges.

Ms Hendricks claimed the women who belong to this project in Hanover Park, have signed contracts, which have now expired. “I have been walking to Ward 47 councillor Antonio van der Rheede’s office for the past month now, but he is just never available. My understanding is that the Women for Change receive a stipend and have to sign contracts. The Hanover Park group’s contracts have expired now, but the same women’s contracts just get extended again. Why do they not give other women a chance on the programme? I tried to express my concerns around this with Mr Van Der Rheede, but he is just never available to meet with us.

A road upgrade project is under way in the area, and according to Ms Hendricks, who said she had spoken to the workers on the project, many of them have dropped out of school because of the gang violence.

“The gangsters even threaten the construction workers here, but we will not stand for that,” Ms Hendricks said.

Mothers of Hope is also concerned about illegal dumping next to the netball pitch, which poses a health risk.

In order to confirm whether Women for Change members do receive a stipend and have to sign contracts, the Athlone News sent a list of questions to the City, but by the time of going to print, no response was received.

“It’s the first time I hear of this.
It’s news to me. Woman for Change gets appointed by the City. I do not give out contracts. It’s all ladies who have a footprint of service in the community from different organisations. It is one of the most effective programmes in the city,” Mr Van Der Rheede said.