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Cape Town: Paying the price to live in Marikana

Cape Town: Paying the price to live in Marikana

Ngcwelekazi Mngupane has paid a price to live in Marikana, Philippi East. She fell victim to what she describes as routine robberies in the early mornings and found herself missing work often, ultimately losing her job. By Ayanda Charlie for CHRONICLE.

Ngcwelekazi Mngupane, 24, moved to Marikana informal settlement in 2013 as part of the original group of occupiers of the land. She and her aunt had come from Khayelitsha and Nyanga respectively.

We were tired of renting back rooms in other people’s properties. We heard about the Marikana occupation and thought it would be better to move our shacks there,” she said.

But it seems she traded in the rent struggle for that of having a safe and dignified dwelling.

We have been fighting ever since we got there,” said Mngupane. “As you see us here today, we are angry because it shouldn’t have taken the death of 11 (people) for the Minister of Police to pay attention to our community,” she added.

Mngupane was among a few hundred people who gathered and marched to the Cape Town Civic Centre and the SAPS Provincial Office on Thursday afternoon.

Residents of Marikana march to the SAPS Provincial Office following a spate of violence in the community. Photo: Ayanda Charlie.

The march was held days after 11 Marikana residents were killed last Friday evening. About 30 gunmen reportedly came out of a Toyota Avanza. They split into groups and made their way into the informal settlement, where they shot 11 people, 10 of whom died on site. The 11th person died hours later in hospital. Residents allege that the shootings were  revenge for the death of seven people who died last week in a vigilante killing in Marikana.

Protesters are demanding that the SAPS, the City of Cape Town, the Department of Community Safety, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate, and the Western Cape Police Ombudsman convene a meeting on Monday 9 October to devise a plan to remedy the issues that plague Marikana.

Among these problems is Marikana’s state of being a no-man’s land. Residents are demanding that the city honours the high court ruling and buys Marikana or expropriates it from its owners so the area can be serviced and developed.

They are also demanding additional police personnel to be deployed to the Philippi East police station, as the neighbourhood is a known crime and murder hotspot, and that street lights be installed for safety.

Gangsters will walk into your house while you are cooking and tell you that you must save them a plate of food. If they come back and find that you haven’t done so, they will shoot you dead,” said Mngupane.

She adds that the community feels neglected by the police, which gives criminals the freedom to run amok.

Mngupane’s neighbour, a young man nicknamed S’gubhu, was injured in last Friday’s mass shooting.

He came to my house shortly after the incident and told me what had happened. I couldn’t believe that he had survived,” said Mngupane.

A statement released by the DA Western Cape Spokesperson on Community Safety, Mireille Wenger, reports that Philippi East police station has seen a 30% decline in personnel since 2008.

This is cause for great concern as the area’s murder rate rivals that of Nyanga, a township notorious for its murder statistics.

While Nyanga may have the highest number of murders, Philippi East has the highest number of murders in proportion to the population. Philippi East’s murder rate in 2015 was 217 compared with Nyanga’s murder rate of 138,” states the report.

Philippi East police station has 139 police officers who serve 61,773 residents living within six square kilometres, and only 36 vehicles. Read more here.

Provincial Commissioner General Mpumelelo Manci signs a memorandum presented by Marikana marchers.  Photo: Ayanda Charlie

Upon signing the memorandum delivered by Marikana residents, Deputy Provincial Commissioner, Major General Mpumelelo Manci said the SAPS will deploy 207 police personnel to the Philippi area.

The residents met the announcement with apprehension.

We hope that the deployed policemen will be taken from wealthier communities in the province, and not from impoverished communities. They would not be solving the problem by doing so, they would just be playing with people’s minds,” said Social Justice Coalition Secretary-General Axolile Nthwala.

Mngupane said that her wish is for their demands to be taken seriously, although she fears that they might just end up in the bin.

I really hope that the city buys the land so that we can get proper services. As women, we get infections because our bucket toilets are not collected, and all the rubbish is piling up right as you enter Marikana,” said Mngupane. “We need street lights so we can be safer. More police is not enough,” she added.

As the march dispersed and the residents went home, Mngupane said she would never give up hope, despite the hardships. “I will never get tired of fighting. There is no going back for me. Marikana is my home.”

Residents of Marikana demanded that they be included in the meeting between the city, SAPS, and the Department of Public Safety next Monday, and threatened to take further protest action should their demands not be met.  DM

Photo: Ngcwelekazi Mngupane, 24, takes part in a protest march on Thursday following the spate of violence at Marikana in Philippi East. Photo: Ayanda Charlie


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