The South African Federation of Trade Unions is appalled at the dire situation facing residents of Manenberg, Cape Town, as violent criminals rampage through the streets with impunity. These are just some of the horror stories which have hit the headlines in the recent period:
A 67-year-old man on his way to collect his pension was shot and killed after he was caught in what is believed to be gang-related crossfire… He set out early to go collect his pension at a pay point but wound up becoming yet another casualty of Manenberg’s bloody gang war. He lay for hours in a pool of blood after apparently trying to intervene in an alleged gang shooting in the early hours of the morning.
An eight-year-old girl witnessed a man being shot in front of her near her home in Manenberg. Her mother had sent children to buy ice-creams after church. As they crossed the road there was a guy sitting on the pavement. A car pulled up in front of them and they saw the driver point a gun out of the windward and shoot the man on the pavement in the chest. Since then the girl has been battling to sleep and refusing to play outside as she usually did.
Staff at the Manenberg Clinic have been left traumatised after stray bullets hit the facility in a shooting. A man died after he was caught in gang crossfire while on his way to the clinic.
On Tuesday, the usually bustling streets of Manenberg were deserted, as parents kept their children indoors after a morning of intermittent shootings… Children weren’t even able to play in the park as their mothers had to worry about them being struck by stray bullets.
Western Cape police confirmed that schools in Manenberg have now cancelled all school excursions. Previously they had to use police escorts…
Until three weeks ago, the family-run initiative called the Plea for Peace Project offered weekly after-school classes to learners and running poetry, dance and tennis activities at Manenberg Primary but recent shootings in the area have also forced them to halt lessons.
A school had to stop netball practice because the teachers are scared to stay after school.
According to locals, there have been sporadic shootings for the past two months, starting with the notorious Hard Livings gang waging war against the Clever Kids and the Dixie Boys, and escalating to the Americans and Jesters also fighting against the Hard Livings.
“Shootings, murders and attempted murders often happen in the presence of community members,” says Brigadier Enolium Joseph, station commander at Manenberg police station, “but no one reports the perpetrators … Our gangs have become a life source which include financial benefit and an opportunity for instant gratification,”
Residents are reported to be sceptical that anything could ever stop the bullets and bloodshed. “This has been going on for decades – year in, year out. You start to get used to it,” said resident Mailie George. ”We are a damaged community, thrown here by the apartheid government and told to survive. This shit has been going on since the 1970s. Do you really think anything will ever change?”
SAFTU demands that we must never “start to get used to” such a situation where criminals gangs can run a reign of terror without any fear of consequences. It must be stopped now!
This criminal take-over of communities like Manenberg and other poor communities in and around Cape Town represents a failed state – a total collapse of law and order, with devastating consequences for the residents.
If similar atrocities were being perpetrated in wealthy suburbs like Bishopscourt or Tamboerskloof there would be hysteria in the media, ministerial visits and the immediate deployment of police or even the army.
But the rich residents of such suburbs are able to buy their way out of such problems. They can afford protection by private security companies and block off access to their streets with controlled barriers.
We have to fight the view that the kind of violence and criminality we see in Manenberg and the Mariana informal settlement in Philippi is less of a problem when the victims are the poor and marginalized. On the contrary they suffer most, from the double misery of being poor, very often unemployed, and living if slums and then in addition being terrorized and murdered by by gangsters.
SAFTU repeats its demands for all South. African society to come together in a united campaign to give the residents of poor communities the same level of safety and protection as the rich. Government at all levels, the SAPS, religious organizations, trade unions, civil society and community-based organisations must urgently come together to deal with this problem.
Resources must be immediately provided for these areas to be given top priority for the enforcement of the law and the arrest of the criminals. From Minister Fikile Mbalula we want not crude and empty rhetoric about fighting criminal gangs, but action on the ground.
At the same time everything must be done to improve the desperate living conditions of people in these deprived communities. They must be provided with proper houses, better and well-resourced schools and clinics, street lighting and everything else that is required for a decent life.
The lack of such basic services is the underlying reason for the crime wave which is a brutal symptom of a grossly unequal and unjust society.