‘We are prisoners in our own home’

Roegchanda Pascoe, chairwoman of the then Manenberg Safety Forum, now known as the Western Cape Safety Forum, made an impassioned plea for help to all spheres of government, during an anti-gangsterism march on Human Rights Day, Tuesday March 21.

Human Rights Day means nothing to the people of the Cape Flats, as they constantly live in fear because of the ongoing gang violence.

This is the sentiment of Roegchanda Pascoe, chairwoman of what was formerly the Manenberg Safety Forum, who led an anti-gangsterism march to the provincial legislature. The forum called on all communities to support the march on Human Rights Day, Tuesday March 21 in Cape Town. After the support it received from people across the Cape Flats, it was decided to change its name to the Western Cape Safety Forum.

On the day, a small group of residents from across the Cape Flats gathered in Darling Street and braved the extremely hot weather to march to the legislature. The group was mostly women and children.

Ms Pascoe was disappointed that neither Mayor Patricia de Lille nor Premier Helen Zille was at the legislature to receive their memorandum, as was requested. Instead, a police officer was sent to receive the memorandum from Ms Pascoe.

She said freedom of movement for Cape Flats residents was non-existent.

“How do you tell your children every day that they cannot go outside to play? Our doors and windows must be constantly shut, in fear of stray bullets. We are prisoners in our own homes. In fact, a prisoner has more freedom of movement in a correctional facility than the people on the Cape Flats. On just one day (Saturday March 18), two women and one man were shot in Manenberg. During that same time, another person was shot in Hanover Park and a fifth person was shot in Mitchell’s Plain.

“The situation is dire, and we requested the premier and mayor to be here, but alas. There is no more time for red tape, we demand that they must come to the people because this is a crisis,” Ms Pascoe said.

When asked why they chose Human Rights Day to stage the march, Ms Pascoe said: “There’s nothing to celebrate today. This day is an insult to the people who have given up their lives during the struggle against apartheid. The way things are now, it means that they have put their lives down for nothing. The system does not serve the people. It’s crippling us. Our people are dying on a daily basis.”

Mercia Crown, from Manenberg, said she joined the march because everybody in her community was affected by gang violence.

Pointing to her grandchildren, who joined her at the march, she said: “I’m here especially for these little ones, because if things continue the way they do, then our children would have no future. This is a battle that has been coming on for a long time, and it seems nothing is being done to curb it. The violence only stops for a few days, and then it continues again. I am here because I know what I want for my community.”