Bonteheuwel, home to over 45 000 residents, is a place where gang-wars, drugs and turf disputes run rampant. But, apart from that, it has graced the Cape Flats with many civilian heroes. One of the many heroines that Bonteheuwel has seen is community activist Henriette Abrahams, who moved out of Bonteheuwel when she wed, but has since returned to her roots.
Since the start of the national lockdown that has been implemented to slow down the trajectory of coronavirus in the country, many communities on the Cape Flats have found it nearly impossible to abide by the regulations. However, Abrahams said that for drug-users who are in search of their next fix, where there’s a will, there’s a way.
“One of our biggest concerns is our drug addicts that are roaming the streets as if there is no lockdown, they are roaming the streets night and day, the [police] vans and the army comes in and then they run away, but immediately after the army leaves the road, they are back on the street,” said Abrahams.
Abrahams claimed the lockdown did not mean a drop in sales at drug dens.
“Our drug houses are open 24/7 and our concern is they’re picking up the virus. They go home and give the virus to grandmother who is an asthmatic, or a tuberculosis sufferer or a diabetic. Nothing is being done about it, we cannot afford to put our people at risk,” stated Abrahams.
Furthermore, Abrahams acknowledged that crime hasn’t dropped in Bonteheuwel but it has simply morphed.
“What we’re seeing now is there is an increase in housebreakings because people can’t move around, I’ve heard in our area that people are jumping from yard to yard, stealing bicycles, pots and whatever else they can find, because of the restriction on movement people are now turning to steal from their neighbours,” said Abrahams.
Abrahams said the same goes for gang violence.
“In terms of gang fights and so forth, we here gangs shooting ever night. It’s not as if these things have stopped, we still hear these things going on every single night,” stated Abrahams.
Apart from the lockdown being difficult on drug-users, it has also taken a toll on mental health patients, said Shumaylah Williams.
“I’m a bipolar mental health patient, the lockdown has a big effect on my mental health because staying inside increases my anxiety. It is taking a toll on both me and my family,” said Williams.
Williams suggested that with the extension of the lockdown, certain regulations are lifted for chronic mental health patients.
“If it’s [lockdown] going to be extended, I truly believe I am going to end up in hospital,” blubbered Williams.
Just a week into the lockdown, Police Minister Bheki Cele highlighted a distressing figure of 87,000 gender-based violence cases reported over the course of seven days. An anonymous resident said the ban on cigarettes and alcohol has been the root cause of the spike in domestic violence.
“We can’t do all the other things that people can do that live in better areas, children have the privilege of playing in the front yard or the back yard and I understand that it’s your family and you love them but being surrounded by them 24/7, that’s when you grow agitated and the bickering over nonsense begins and people become violent because they don’t have their stress reliever,” said the resident.
The number of confirmed cases in the country has risen to at least 2,272, with the death toll now at 27, with the country almost three weeks into lockdown. The Health minister Zweli Mkhize assured citizens that South Africa has a strong plan in place to respond to the pandemic.