Residents rise up against gangsterism
Angry residents of Grassy Park, Lotus River and Zeekoevlei held an emergency community meeting in Lotus River on Tuesday 4 September.
Concerns around the increased gang activity and the heightened risk around child abduction and potential trafficking in the area were among the main issues raised to councillors, Metro Police and the police themselves. Jennifer Eksteen, who along with her husband runs the Ministry of God Church in Sixth Avenue, says that while the youth who run around with guns aren’t the owners (of the guns), residents know who the owners are and where they live.
“I want to tell the mothers that they must not allow these drug lords and gang leaders to control and influence their children so easily. You have the power within you to do something. It’s about time the core of the matter must be addressed with the drug lords and gang leaders. They think they are in control, but let us stand up for our community and for our children,” she said.
Another resident, David Abrahams from the Association for Older Persons in Grassy Park, said he had called the police on numerous occasions and pointed out suspects, but nothing has been done.
“I had my video camera and I took the feed where they robbed this person. I called the police and they came there after 30 minutes and I pointed to the three guys and showed them the video. They followed them and nothing happened. The very next day the same thing happened with the same three guys. About a month ago, the same three guys robbed a man of his cellphone. There are parents who are hiding some of their children. Please pick up the mantle and help the community. Also, let us not clean the cobwebs, but let us kill the spider. If you kill the spider, then there won’t be any spider webs anymore. Let justice prevail as it was before,” said Abrahams.
Director Charl Kitching from the Metro Police’s Special Investigative Unit lamented that the problem lies not in going after and catching the gangsters and locking them up, but the problem for them lies in the justice system.
“The cases get thrown out of court. We can put 300 police and Metro Police here, but the problem lies with the justice system. That needs to be discussed at another stage. Crime prevention is a police competency, not a competency of the Metro Police. The City launched the Metro Police in order to help the police,” said Kitching.
He added that strains on resources during the ongoing protests make it difficult for law enforcement officers to carry out their duties optimally.
Clifford Martinus, director of Oasis Development in the area, was disappointed at the police representation in the absence of Grassy Park police’s station commander, but understood that the police may have enough work to get through as it is.
“Having a constable speaking on his (station commander’s) behalf here is a bit unfair to the community. While we are saying that enough is enough, remember the older generation also said the same thing and now they are old. Because we keep on talking and they keep on listening to the same scenario, but it is our own community who must do something about it. I am not saying we must take the law into our own hands, but there are (other) steps we need to take,” Martinus said.
Martinus mentioned that public meetings often descend into complaint sessions and the actual issues of the day are quickly swept away, but he reminded residents why they were gathered at the meeting.
“A child is first a child before he becomes a gangster. Our children need options in our community and this is what we need to do for them. We have been trying to do that for 20 years with Oasis, to create options. We cannot do it alone. There are churches, mosques and everyone is trying to do something. The churches and the mosques are the strong community pillars all along. Why? Because those institutions were there to guide us through life. I think that if we are going to eradicate gangsterism, we are not going to fix it today, but we can fix our attitudes towards it in terms of how we start over again, because it will not be resolved overnight,” Martinus said.
Ward councillor for the area Patricia van der Ross called for residents to be united.
“We’ve noted the concerns and in the end we made a decision that we are going to have a march on Saturday 6 October. The application has gone through (for the march to take place). We want all schools and residents to come out to stand together and either have a human chain if they can’t walk or to walk with us to send a message to say that we have had enough of this gang violence.”