Several communities on the Cape Flats are gearing up for “a mass shutdown” on October 3, calling for an end to crime and gang violence.
Organisers of the Bishop Lavis Action Community told GroundUp that they planned to blockade entrances and some main roads around several areas on Wednesday morning. The residents then plan to march from Keizersgracht in the city centre to parliament at 10am. Residents say they will hand a memorandum to ward councillor Asa Abrahams and SAPS, calling for action to stop gang violence in their community.
Ronald Snipper, a gang mediator and member of the Manenberg Safety Forum, said during a meeting in Manenberg last week to a group of mostly activists: “I believe gang fights can be stopped. This takes skill development, employment, and reconstruction of the area. Without those three things, you will always have gangs here.”
Snipper, also known as Uncle Errol, is among a handful of peace mediators in Manenberg who have been praised for quelling tensions between rival gangs in the area.
“Policing is only part of the solution,” he said.
Activist Roegshanda Pascoe said people were tired of being “held hostage” by gangs. She applauded the ongoing #TakeBackOurCommunity campaigns run by residents across the city.
“The march will be pulling together all of our struggles and bringing a united voice to the front. We can’t work in isolation anymore,” she said.
“We can’t hide behind the fact that police don’t have a plan. It’s also unfair for people to expect the police to tackle social issues. We can’t blame the police for everything.”
Michael Jacobs, from the Mitchells Plain United Residents’ Association, criticised the police’s Operation Thunder launched by Police Minister Bheki Cele in May, and said: “Whether or not they make thousands of arrests, it certainly is not making an impact in getting the guns and shooters off the streets.”
At a briefing to the Western Cape legislature’s committee on community safety in August, SAPS said Operation Thunder had racked up over 11,000 arrests including high-ranking gang members on the Cape Flats; confiscated over 3,000 rounds of ammunition and 130 illegal firearms; and there had been a decrease in murder and attempted murder cases in Manenberg, Ravensmead, Steenberg, and Worcester.
But in crime statistics released by SAPS on Tuesday, recorded murders across the country rose by nearly 7% from 19,016 in 2016/17 to 20,336 in 2017/18. The worst increase was in the Western Cape, which grew from 3,311 to 3,729 – nearly 13%. Oddly, the statistics show recorded “serious crimes” coming down. Whether this is a consequence of a real drop in crime or increased reluctance to report crime is unclear.
Jacobs said: “Our people are living in fear. We need to make the president aware that our people are dying on the streets. We also need to keep the provincial police commissioner accountable for the policing failures within communities.”
John Cloete from the United Public Safety Front said: “There is a groundswell and more people are coming out of their comfort zones and speaking out against the state’s inability to protect us. We must bring the economy to a standstill.”
But not everyone appears to be in favour of the planned mass action. Pastor Wayne Janecke from the Manenberg Ministers Fraternal warned organisers that faith leaders would not openly support the shutdown, which he said could turn violent.
Pastor Janecke said: “Part of the reason you’ll have the absence of ministers is because our biggest problem is that the conversations happening have a little bit of a militant undertone, like bringing the economic sector or city to a standstill. That will make the church withdraw almost immediately.
“We want unity, don’t get us wrong. But the church wants to hear words like skills development. Imagine what would happen if pastors encouraged their congregations to participate and it turned sour. People won’t hold the organisers accountable, they will look at me as a pastor.”
Janecke said several buildings in the Manenberg area stood vacant during the week: “This is where skills programmes can be run and educational things can be put in place and where mediation can be done. We should rather engage [in] constructive programmes to change the lives of our people.”