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'The police are never in Hanover Park when we need them...

South Africa


‘The police are never in Hanover Park when we need them’

Community members and members of Pinati Estate Street Patrolling Committee protest against gang-violence in Hanover Park on July 3. Photo: Sandisiwe Shoba.

A small group of residents protested against ongoing issues of crime and gang-related violence in the Cape Flats on Wednesday, 3 July. They stopped traffic in the early morning in an attempt to put gang-related crime back in the spotlight.

Holding signs saying “THIS MOM HAS HAD #ENOUGH” and “Don’t shoot, I want to grow up”, Pinati Estate community member Avril Martin was part of a group of protesters organising a shutdown of Hanover Park on 3 July. But Martin told Daily Maverick she was upset that the community response had been “very poor”.

We know that people have to go to work, so we [are] asking them to hoot when they go past to show support. But there are so few community members here.” Martin noted in particular that the ward councillor was not present to show support. According to Martin, the only officials to attend planned Total Shutdown of Hanover Park were Metro police.

(See tweet to video clip  here: of Shaheeda Petersen speaking at the protest)

By 7.45am the protest had dwindled to just over 15 people, although more than 50 were reportedly present in the early hours of the morning.

Martin is part of the Pinati Estate Street Patrolling Committee, a group of women who patrol bus stops and surrounding areas in the mornings and on Friday and Saturday evenings.

I must make a sacrifice because my community needs me here,” Avril told Daily Maverick. She said when she calls police, they do not arrive.

This morning for the first time the police are here, and we welcome them. But they are never here when we need them,” said Martin. Residents want more police visibility in the area and greater police response. According to Martin and other residents present at the protest, “the police don’t come when we call”.

The closest police stations in the area are located in Philippi and Lansdown, but Hanover Park community members say that because they are in the middle of the two areas, when they call one station they are told to go to the other.

Fowzia Williams, a “fifty-something concerned resident”, conducts area patrols. Williams goes out every day at 6am to 8am, goes home to look after her husband who has dementia, then leaves again to patrol from 9am to 11am and again later in the afternoon. She patrols on behalf of factories in the area, keeping an eye on backroads and areas that are notorious for robberies and theft.

Watch Fowzie and six other mothers from the Hanover Park speak to Street Talk about their experiences of losing loved ones to gangsterism. Watch the series, called Gatvolhere.

We as citizens, we try to better our community. But it all starts at home.”

In 2015, Williams’ son was murdered by gang members. Like many other mothers and families in the area, Williams says she is “gatvol” over the innocent deaths that come as a result of gangsterism and gang-related violence on the Cape Flats.

The people are fed up. Innocent lives are taken every day, and the government don’t care about us. Apartheid is still happening and we are gatvol.”

Martin, a mother and an educator, told Daily Maverick that gangsterism impacts everyone, including young children who are often too young to know what is happening.

The children are traumatised. And you know what, some of the children, they come to school and they play out what they see. You give them the blocks and stuff and they just play guns, they just talk guns.”

According to Williams, one of the biggest issues faced by young people in her area is joblessness and youth unemployment. “Kids go sit on street corners and then one day your child is involved in gangs and involved in drugs. Why? Because there isn’t work for them. So we’re still in apartheid, not because you can’t enter a specific place, you can enter now, but with jobs and work we are still in apartheid.”

The community members involved in Wednesday’s protest are not the only residents of the Cape Flats who have raised their voices against gang violence in the area, so much so that Police Minister Bheki Cele on Monday met the Community Policing Forum’s board to discuss the on-going crisis in the area.

And as Hanover Park resident Shaheeda Petersen told Daily Maverick, “I’m sick and tired of saying, ‘my condolences’.”

Residents want action, and they want it now. DM


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