The Bonteheuwel Joint Peace Forum says they are outraged by government officials’ lack of interest in gang violence in the area. The forum has issued authorities with a 10 day ultimatum to address their concerns, or face protests. Residents say they have seen fatal shootings everyday over the past three months, but little to no response from government.
The forum’s spokesperson Suraya Salie said they have written an open letter addressed to a number of high ranking government officials, calling for immediate intervention in tackling the escalating issue of gang-violence and crime in the area. The letter was addressed to amongst others, President Jacob Zuma, City of Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille, Community Safety MEC Dan Plato, and Police Commissioner Arno Lamoer.
The letter was being directed at all spheres of government, in the hopes that a unified effort could help quell the raging violence not only in Bonteheuwel, but across the Cape Flats.
According to the Forum’s Judy Kennedy, they rejected any notions of the letter being politically motivated, insisting that the organisation did not “subscribe to party politics”. However, she asserted that the issue of gang-violence was one that had become hugely politicised.
Describing the conditions in the area, Kennedy noted a sense of fear in the community, with many residents too afraid to travel to work in the morning, and children fearful of leaving their homes to play outside.
“Children are scared when they come out of school and when they go to school, because that is when a lot of the shootings happen. Children can’t play outside. People are too scared to even go to the shop down the road,” Kennedy noted.
Kennedy said the issue was not something that could be resolved immediately, attributing it to a deep rooted problem within the community. According to her, these issues needed to be addressed by government.
“That is where all spheres of government come into play. We don’t necessarily have the solutions, but we are trying to see are the alternatives that we can put into place. That is the focus of the Joint Peace Forum,” she explained.
Kennedy also made an urgent appeal to local government to have the areas community centres reopened, noting that those centres could be used to provide alternative past-times to keep the youth off the streets.
“Those centres are closed today, and are not being used effectively. That is just one of the issues,” she noted.
The Forum had received a response from Community Safety MEC Dan Plato, who confirmed that he would host a committee meeting in area within the next two weeks.
The letter has reportedly not been received well by Mayor De Lille, with Kennedy suggesting the Mayor had taken offence to the forum’s promise of intensifying its campaign, should they not receive feedback.
“There has been a response from the Mayor on a radio station, where she asks how we dare give them an ultimatum. This is a community that is crying out for help, and you want to treat that as a threat,” she said.
The City of Cape Town has refused to grant VOC an interview on this matter. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)