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We need programmes for families: Lavender Hill activists

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The chairperson of the Steenberg CPF, Lucinda Evans has expressed her shock that the South African Police Service (SAPS) first notified the media before notifying the family of the murder of 13 year old Rene Tracey Roman. Following a week of tense searching, Lavender Hill residents yesterday heard the news that the body discovered at a home in the area is in fact the remains of Roman. The body of Roman, who was reported missing some 12 days ago, was discovered behind a house in St Agatha Street earlier this week.

After much speculation and pre-empted media reports, police yesterday confirmed Roman’s family’s worst fears after DNA tests proved that the body is that of the 13-year-old. Following the announcement police confirmed that a 50-year-old male suspect was apprehended in Stellenbosch.

“I was very disappointed in how the family heard the official confirmation. When we heard it, it was via social media that went completely viral,” said Evans who has been spending the last 12 days with the family.

While the family continues to come to terms with the news, echoing Daniels sentiments, Evans says that with the tragic passing of Roman the community united in the efforts to get to the bottom of her disappearance. The efforts to find Roman not only highlighted the vulnerability of women and children in the Cape Flats, but also showed the struggle of mothers and sisters within Cape communities who have taken the lead in combatting gangsterism and crime.

“On the first night [of the search for Romans] we were 120 strong people that went out there. And on the Saturday we were 90 women and 10 men,” Evans stated.

Evans further notes that the murder of Romans brought to the fore the need to educate parents about risks within communities and what mechanisms to employ to avoid falling victim to perpetrators.

“We want to support the family, but we are also going to have deeper conversations about how we can strengthen child protection for the Steenberg precinct.”

While the man’s identity is unknown at this stage, on his arrival at the crime scene yesterday, enraged residents in scenes of chaos attempted to confront the suspect, but were kept at bay by law enforcement officials. Lavender Hill Civic Association representative, Charles Daniels explained that after the alleged perpetrator was brought to the premises where the body was discovered, residents voiced their anger and urged the police to allow them to deal with the 50-year-old suspect themselves.

“There was a presence of 15 to 20 policemen, but the people did not want to hear anything. When people started to get angry, they started to throw stones at police and police vans, so the situation started to get a little out of hand,” Daniels stated.

He says that once the family of the young girl was informed that the body is in fact that of Rene, the community continued to rally around them.

Commenting on the violence that erupted, he asserts that while the family understood the community’s sentiments, they did not call for or support the violence.

“A lot of people knew Rene and obviously a lot of people have children where [the incident] took place. It is sad for Lavender Hill, but it has brought us together – Rene, with the sadness of her passing, brought together a community that was always divided, Daniels added.”

An emotional Evans says that while she does not condone the actions of certain “elements” who initiated the violence, she understands the anger of the residents.

“There were women, they were screaming and crying, and unfortunately [the police] had to be the shield for the community’s anger and the women were demanding they give in and so that they can deal with him – it was mothers, sisters, and grannies.”

Following the uproar, community leaders, with the permission of the family, hosted a public service for Romans, which was attended by over one thousand people.

For a community that assisted in the search for the girl following reports of her disappearance, Daniels notes that the confirmation of her death was heart-breaking for both her family and residents.

As leader of the Philisa Abafazi Bethu, Evans asserts that the organisation is to develop a programme to assist families currently struggling with issues that impact the lives of children and the family as a whole.

“This incident of Roman has brought us as NGO’s together. We will discuss how we do a multidisciplinary NGO programme for families. Where we will NGO’s taking responsibilities for fathers, youth and parenting skills and support. We will the community know as soon as we have those meetings.”

In closing, Evans urged parents to always be aware of their children’s whereabouts and to report to the police if their children are unnaturally out of routine, even if missing for more than two hours. VOC

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