From the news desk

Bonteheuwel used as ‘political football’: Forum

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Amidst persistent gang violence over the past few months, the Bonteheuwel Joint Peace Forum (BJPF) has again called for urgent solutions to be brought forward to address the increasing levels of crime in the area. The call comes despite the Minister for Community Safety in the Western Cape, Dan Plato, hosting a public meeting in August to address the communities concerns.

In early August, following several gang related killings in the area, the BJPF wrote an open letter to a number of top government officials, calling for urgent intervention to help quell the raging violence. The letter was addressed to amongst others, Minister Plato, President Jacob Zuma, City of Cape Town Mayor Patricia De Lille, and Western Cape Premier Helen Zille. As a result, Plato called an urgent public meeting to try and address the situation.

Despite this, Suraya Salie of the BJPF was critical of the minister’s attitude towards the issue. During the meeting Plato reportedly made certain promises to the community and said he would return for a follow up meeting once he had sufficiently taken their memorandum into consideration. But bar a meeting with the BJPF itself, she claimed that Plato had yet to address the community.

“That was in August, and we are in October now. We did manage to see him on the 11th September, but that was really just via the Joint Peace Forum, where we put forward to him what we were requesting,” she said.

She said it was surprising that when government officials and ministers came into the area, police resources seemed to go up. However, when these officials were not visiting the area the resources were depleted, with authorities suggesting that no resources were available.

“The public are being used as a soccer ball. They are being kicked around by these political parties, and each and everyone is passing the buck,” she suggested.

This was echoed during a VOC News visit to the area last week, in which residents bemoaned the level of gang related violence on a daily basis. They also reported that police visibility was dismal and that the area lacked social development programmes for youth. Residents told VOC News that they were desperate for intervention, as children were being sucked into gang life.

According to Salie, amongst the main requests in the memorandum was for the City of Cape Town to provide resources that would help keep the areas youth off the streets. She said the BJPF did not want the sole focus to be around tackling gang violence incidents, but rather to bring about preventative measures that could stop the youth from getting involved in gang related activities.

She also noted that the Metro Police had committed to being stationed outside various schools in the area, but that had lasted no longer than two or three weeks.

“If you offer your commitment to a citizen and you let us down, what respect do you expect to get from us,” she said.

The BJPF have since submitted a letter to Minister Plato, calling for him to uphold the promise of a follow-up meeting with community members in Bonteheuwel.

The minister’s office said he would respond to the matter on VOC Breakfast Beat on Wednesday morning at 7.40am. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)

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