‘Who will die next?’

Hanover Park residents marched to the Philippi police station on Saturday August 26 to demand an end to the gang violence in the area.

More than a hundred people marched to Philippi police station on Saturday August 26 to demand an end to the daily gang violence and senseless loss of life in Hanover Park.

The march, organised by the Hanover Park Civic Association, was supported mostly by women and children, as well as Ward 47 councillor Antonio van der Rheede and Ward 46 councillor Aslam Cassiem.

Chanting “enough is enough” and “no more killings”, the group walked about 3km through the area to reach the police station, urging motorists to hoot to show their support.

Resident Wendy Petersen said she was tired of all the shootings.

“This gang violence affects my family badly. I have a 21-year-old son who was forced to give up his job as he used public transport from the terminus, but this is a hot spot for shootings. I had to accompany him every day he went to work, but then he felt it was too risky for both of us.

“Our children can’t play outside, and we often wonder who will die next. What is happening in Hanover Park is very sad. I used to pay a woman R10 to go to the supermarket for me at the terminus, but she too is now too scared to go there, and as much as she needs that money, she refuses to go there now. My husband is our breadwinner, but he too must go to work in fear,” Ms Petersen said.

Also part of the march was Sandra Dee, chairperson of the Fairy Seniors Club. She said the seniors “have had enough”. “They can’t even go to the shop anymore.”

Mr Van der Rheede spoke to the marchers outside the police station and thanked for their efforts to end gang violence.

“Our playgrounds have become battlefields,” he said, adding it would take continuous mobilisation and not just a single march to make a real change.

“I also want to appeal to religious leaders to help us in this fight, because the challenge is not in your church or mosque walls – it is out there.”

He saluted the women of Hanover Park, saying without them the neighbourhood would be so much worse.

“We have never marched to the police station before, and I want to salute all of you for doing this – even the children with the posters. I also want to thank the Hanover Park Civic Association for taking this initiative. From now on, every day will be Women’s Day in Hanover Park. We have to take back our courts – starting by cleaning up the mess – even if it is not your mess. Cleanliness is next to Godliness, and evil thrives where there is dumping. We are going to take hands and transform Hanover Park inch-by-inch,” Mr Van der Rheede said to roaring applause.

The marchers toyi-toyied and threatened to go into the police station if the management did not come out to receive the memorandum.

When station commander Colonel Dennis Abels and Lieutenant-Colonel Desmond Liang arrived, the chairperson of the Hanover Park Civic Association, Igshaan Nazier, read out their demands before handing the memorandum over to them.

The marchers called for the removal of all staff at Philippi police station because of “the irretrievable breakdown of trust between the community and staff”. They also demanded the disbanding of the Philippi Community Police Forum (CPF), alleging it was “public knowledge” that some CPF members had criminal records and were involved in the security industry.

Mr Nazier wanted to know how police screened CPF members before they were appointed.

Colonel Abels congratulated the civic association, saying more should join similar initiatives for an “integrated approach” to dealing with gangsterism and crime.

He told the marchers he would have to follow procedure and that some of the issues would have to be “escalated” because he did not have the authority to replace police officers or disband the CPF. “I agree that all officers must be held accountable, and if not, action must be taken, but in order for this to happen, one must be prepared to provide a statement under oath,” he said.

Ewald Botha, spokesman for Community Safety MEC Dan Plato,said the CPF was a statutory body and the responsibility of SAPS. Community Safety funded CPFs but only the SAPS could disband one.

Philippi CPF secretary Weldon Cameron accused the civic association of running a smear campaign and failing to understand the role of the CPF.

“Our mandate is not to police. Our mandate is to create partnerships to assist the police in fighting crime. Part of that involves us having to speak to gangsters, for example. In January 2015, we scheduled elections for the CPF, but because the civic was registered but did not participate in the elections, we had to postpone it. This mass campaign of the civic association forms part of their smear campaign.

“If they say any member of the CPF is a criminal, then they must come with proof.

“We are a constitutional institution and it’s not going to be easy to disband us. A court case will have to be held.”