Whenever she hears gunshots outside her Hanover Park home, Melicia Donson tells her two-year-old daughter someone is lighting fireworks.
“How do you explain to a baby that there are people trying to kill each other right outside your door?” she asked on Thursday.
The single mother of two is one of many parents who have chosen to keep their children behind locked doors as criminals run riot through the gang-infested community.
“My son is nine and he refuses to play outside. These rubbishes are holding us hostage,” she said.
“It’s the school holidays but parents are too scared to allow their children to even play in the park. How did we allow things to escalate this much?”
Cluster Community Police Forum chairperson Hanif Loonat said while there is generally an increase in gang violence during the festive season, this year’s level of bullets and bloodshed far exceeds previous periods.
“It’s at its worst. It’s a season for family and enjoyment, but instead people are being held ransom. It’s extremely worrying,” he said.
December sees a spike in turf wars across the Cape Flats as gangs vie for territory, Loonat explained.
“This is when they make a killing. People have cash and drugs are consumed in copious amounts.
“And the battle to trade is having a devastating effect on our communities. Innocent people get caught in the crossfire. Our Christian families are even too afraid to go to church because of all the shootings.”
Authorities are also unable to stem the tide of contraband into the area, Loonat said.
“The reality is our police are under-resourced to deal with the problem. They do what they can, but when you have very little, the impact cannot really be felt.”
Community worker Elizabeth Mouton said within the last decade, at least 20 innocent children had been injured in gang shootings.
“This is besides our youngsters who have involved themselves in gangs. Here it’s not uncommon to see a nine or ten-year-old child being a gun or drug runner,” she said.
Despite this, she believes parents shouldn’t keep their children cooped up indoors.
“Don’t give these gangsters that power over us,” she urged.
“There are a number of holiday activities for the little ones. Give them something constructive to do.”
Mouton however warned parents to not be reckless with their children’s safety.
“If you live in a known hotspot, don’t take chances. Don’t let your child become another casualty caught in the crossfire.”
Jograh Davids told News24 her 12-year-old daughter had been unable to sleep the previous night after she saw a dead body at the local bus terminus on Wednesday.
“The man had been shot in the head and he was covered in a blanket. She was traumatised, because you could see the blood running from the body,” she said.
“It’s not something I wanted her to see. She will never forget it. But like my husband told her, this is the reality of where we live. I wish we could get out of here.” News24