In the face of growing gang-violence and crime in the Bonteheuwel community, the Provincial Minister of Community Safety, Dan Plato, held a meeting with residents on Monday evening, to discuss their concerns and find possible resolutions to the issue.
The meeting came two weeks after the Bonteheuwel Joint Peace Forum (JPF) wrote an open letter to a number of top government officials, calling for urgent intervention to help quell the violence in the area. Apart from Plato, the letter was also addressed to President Jacob Zuma, City of Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille, Police Commissioner Arno Lamoer, and Western Cape Premier Helen Zille.
Plato’s spokesperson, Ewald Botha, said the meeting had been largely successful, with many of the root problems in the community having been identified. He hailed a great turnout by the Bonteheuwel residents, with discussions being dominated by the community members themselves, as to their safety concerns.
“These have all been taken down, and taken in to regard. The JPF were in attendance as well, and handed over a memorandum for the minister to consider,” he explained.
He noted that the minister had undertaken to respond to the JPF’s memorandum within the next 14 days.
The concerns raised by community members ranged from high levels of gang related shooting, the safety concerns of children attending school, the lack of sufficient policing in the area, as well as the involvement of local role-players in tackling the issue.
Botha said various possible resolutions were mentioned near the end of the meeting, and he was confident Plato would address the available options with the JPF, after sufficiently taking the memorandum into consideration.
“The JPF were quite specific in terms of their requests on the memorandum. They’ve got a list of demands they would like to see happen in Bonteheuwel, some of which includes greater cooperation for instance. So minister Plato will take this into consideration and liaise with the various role-players from government’s side,” he said.
He added the most positive point to come from Monday’s meeting, was the acceptance that whatever resolutions came about would need to be implemented with a ‘society as a whole’ approach.
This was acknowledged by JPF member, Grant Abrahams, who stressed the issue was not simply a government and South African Police Services (SAPS) problem.
He noted the forum had a positive relationship with SAPS in the area, who had responded well to incidents and complaints in recent months. However, he stressed that the local police services were heavily under sourced at present. Hence the memorandum would call for more police visibility, as well as a sustainable plan of action to tackle the crime issue.
Abrahams said they were also hopeful that government would help implement youth development programs in Bonteheuwel, which would likely keep the area’s youth off the streets.
“In the next few months we will be having certain issues that we will bring to the fore, just to create alternatives, especially geared at our young people,” he said.
Despite the overwhelmingly positive reception to the meeting, a member of the Proudly Bonteheuwel group, speaking in her own capacity, was particularly critical of the JPF’s role in the area. Yusrah Waterloo suggested that many Bonteheuwel residents were unaware of who the JPF were, and accused the group of politicizing and exaggerating the crime issue in the area.
She further suggested certain members of the JPF were coming from prominent political organizations, claiming that a recent JPF march was held under the banner of trade union Cosatu.
However, those allegations were rejected by Abrahams, who insisted they were not overstating the crime problem in Bonteheuwel for any political gains.
“We are a community organization, and we get our demands from the community. We have stated it, and we will state it again, we are not aligned and we are apolitical,” he said. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)