By Tauhierah Salie
The streets of Cape Town CBD were filled with the sounds of mourning mothers, sisters and friends on Thursday, as various women-led organisations called on the government to urgently address the social ills which have claimed hundreds of lives. Around 350 demonstrators participated in a march organised by Moms Move for Justice, Peace and Reconciliation, who commemorated the loss of loved ones lost to gang violence, for the fourth consecutive year.
It comes within two weeks of the South African National Defence Force being deployed to gang-ridden areas in Cape Town in an effort to help police stabilize the region.
The Department of Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz said that at least 2 000 unnatural deaths were recorded between January and the end of June 2019. Since then, nearly 100 more have been killed.
In solidarity, organisations such as the Right to Know Campaign, Vroue In Aksie, Philisa Abafazi Bethu and the Alcardo Andrews Foundation, among others, marched from the Castle of Good Hope to the steps of the Parliament.
A vigil was held at the Castle before the departure, whereby several key stakeholders addressed the crowd. Many expressed their disappointment at government’s perceived lack of action.
Founder of Moms Move for Justice, Avril Andrews, started the organisation after her son was killed due to gang violence in 2015. She said the organisations hope that the government will take them seriously.
“From the first year, there’s been a very slow response. Mothers are still crying, they do not get closure, they don’t get justice for their children’s murder cases. We are hoping the government will really sit with us and the community to really know what is going on.”
Andrews went on to highlight the plight of female Community Policing Forum or Neighbourhood Watch members. She said government should invest in the safety, security and sustainability of Cape Flats communities.
“They’ve (government) spent a lot of money on the army but (we want) an effective plan- to confiscate the guns, because they are in the youngsters’ hands. These (children) have no clue what is going on. Also, a very big concern is the amount of money spent on the army. If some of that money can be used to give a stipend to the neighbourhood watch, who are protecting our other kids,” she explained.
“Most of the women (in the neighbourhood watch) are unemployed or single moms. Why not give them a stipend and let them help the police. Somehow, they must stop oppressing our people and our women. It’s sad to see how our women are suffering- and they still have the spirit of volunteering, but when they get home, they must look for bread.”
Adeebah Shar, from the organisation Mom’s Who Care, said it is imperative to stand together.
“It affects all mothers and future mothers and our youth especially. The one’s lives lost due to the gangsterism the violence and the drugs etcetera. We had enough; more than enough. Because change do start with us. The more we stand together the more we’ll be able to get done. We want to try and make a difference even how small.”
Philisa Abafazi Bethu’s “Sue” felt that the amount of poverty is as a result of the Apartheid regime.
“I’ve had enough of the violence against women and children. I’ve had enough of the poverty that is ridden in our country and I feel that the residue of Apartheid is this violence and the bodies of women and children.”
A protestor, Shevon Julius, said the aim of the march is to give a voice to those who have lost theirs.
“The reason why I am here today is to take a stand. It’s very important to equip (especially) our youth. To take a stand for all the child murders and the abuse, domestic violence that is happening in our country. Being a young person in dealing with gangsterism, violence, child rape. It’s very important to equip our youth. My fight is for the ones who does not have a voice.”
Demonstrator Nicky Grant was angered by criminals not being held to account.
“I’m very concerned about the plight of the children and the women of this country and these guys are getting away with all kinds of crap.”
Vuyakazi Malafu from trade union Cosatu, called on women and the community to unite.
“As women from different backgrounds and races I think it’s about time we all just unite together. It’s not about showing how much that you are or how much crime affects you because it affects all of us. We want to be safe in our country and I think we’ve come a long way as a country to still be fearful in our streets. So, it is about time that we claim out streets, we claim our nights and we claim our dignity.”
The organisations handed over three memorandums to Cape Town Mayor, Dan Plato; National Police Commissioner, Bheki Cele and Minister of Social Development Sharna Fernandez.
They’re calling on sustainable solutions to address issues including: the protection and remuneration of community safety organisations, youth unemployment, access to drugs and illegal weaponry, rampant crime and gangsterism, lack of initiatives to combat gender-based violence and drug use and low conviction rate of known-criminals
Head of the presidency, Charles Ford, accepted the memorandum of demands on behalf of President Cyril Ramaphosa. Charles said a response can be expected within the next 4-6 weeks.