Fractured city

by Nov 13, 2013Magazine

Q: I could not help noticing the large visible police presence and patrols on every corner of Manenberg. Has it helped the situation at all?

Keith Dumas/Christene: longstanding community activists

I think we need to be very weary of the cynical politics playing itself out in Manenberg at the moment.

The large police deployment in the area will contain things for a while, but will offer no long-term solutions to what is a deep crisis.

I suspect it will be used as empirical proof to argue deploying the army.

People here live in a volatile situation and it shows how dominant the drug economy here has become. The drug trade here underpins everything; with desperate turf wars always threatening to explode.

The police presence, rather than disrupting the drug economy, almost allows it to flourish by focusing only on gang violence

It has the effect of creating a stability exploited by the gangs to ply their trade openly. The drug trade was never seriously threatened here and can no longer be described as an underlying factor. It is now no longer covert, but overt and brimming with confidence

A level of instability is deliberately maintained in order to undermine the resurgence of a strong community striving to build unity.

I will argue that organisations have learnt a lot and are better prepared than a few years ago in dealing and responding to what’s happening here.

But these organisations are not viewed as allies but as threats. If the truth were told, drug lords don’t see the police as threats at all.

Errol the activist/Communities for Change

I think the biggest problem is our police station; there has been no major conviction of any of these high flyers –and that’s a serious problem.

I don’t suck these things out of my thumb: I saw it with my own eyes. Cops are in cahoots with gangsters.

But I always live in hope –I always look forward and am determined to be part of the solution.

What is happening in Manenberg is not a true reflection of this community. Lots can be done, but unfortunately petty differences divide us.

Roshanna: a community worker

I think Manenberg is in deep trouble. It has a long history of being the drug warehouse of Cape Town.

If you think about it, what makes us different from Hanover Park, for example? Nothing really, except this drug thing. It’s allowed to happen and flourish here.

Manenberg is used as a political football, but no genuine long-term engagement and plans are ever looked at – it’s always a response to a crisis and then nothing.

You see them taking kids on a youth camp and then no follow-up – it creates even more hopelessness. How can you do this to kids? It just adds to the despair.

The influx of people and drugs going through here is incredible – it’s the centre of it all.

Chtristen /Keith

Some of the Dan Plato interventions don’t make sense. There’s 6 million from the education budget to fight gangsterism, yet our request to help Silverstream High was rejected.

Silverstream has one of the worst performing matric pass rates in the province. How do you explain that?

The recent TV footage of the gangster running through the courts of Manenberg terrified Zille and Plato, as if it’s so unusual here. They had to show that they have a handle on things because it’s bad for them politically. So along comes a crisis response.

Can you believe they offered us food and a soup kitchen? No consultation and working together with the actual community. We have seen it all before.

Roshana

The criminal justice system is problematic. There are no rehabilitation programmes and young people often leave prison worse than when then entered. They are doomed to become repeat offenders. Even a short stay in prison can produce hardened gangsters robbed of any possibility of reform. They are doomed to become repeat offenders.

A rehabilitation centre and programme in Manenberg will help. For now there is almost no thinking around these things and that just leaves these kids worse off.

Rosanna and Errol on the unemployment issue and the lack of skills

There is over 60% unemployment in Manenberg yet do you see any people of colour like us fixing things in Langa? We simply were not allowed in.

They show complete contempt for us. Many men exist here with skills but they are broken men, destroyed by lack of work, that have turned to alcohol and drugs. I tried to help some boys with upholstery skills by getting them work and machines to start their own businesses. But they too have fallen into drugs.

Every second household here has someone that was connected to the clothing industry. The ANC government was in cahoots with the Chinese. They have destroyed our factories.

Christene on the police

The heavy police and army presence is not going to solve our problems.

The police must leave our area or do their job properly. I think they replace the cops who have been corrupted.

Us as community organisations just do that much – we cannot do it on our own and we need government support.

Most of us are volunteers here. I am receiving some retribution for a parent’s programme which I basically run.

What we need here is funding for job creation, literacy and life skills, etc. Here is a 12-/13-year-old who can’t read – what kind of a life is that?

Errol

I refuse to only see the doom and gloom, and have dedicated my life to improving this community. I am a God-fearing person and that motivates me.

The top brass of the police station must go. I believe that the only reason they are worried about gangsterism and crime here is so that it does not spill over to the affluent areas – it is out of no special concern for us.

There must be preventive programmes that catch these kids before they get exposed to crime – but the programmes that do exist gets closed down. We must protect these kids. You find girls of 14/15 becoming pregnant, but the most disturbing is that their parents find nothing wrong with it.

There must be preventive measures that follow these kid’s lives – like a mentor programme or something. Get them while they’re young.

There is a constant recruitment drive from the gangs where they already recruit these kids at primary school.

The behaviour of these parents also doesn’t help things much – Friday and Saturday is boogie night, where the alcohol and drugs flow.

Organisational responses

Manenberg Development is three years old. It is not a response to gangsterism. We’re not a response to crime in the community. We have 17 affiliated organisations that strive to build unity in Manenberg. Our organisation really had it roots in the Ebrahim Rasool Social Transformation years. We operate on a skeleton staff but are determined to survive.

It is a membership organisation where accountability is the aim. Forging links with organisations in other areas like Hanover Park will be paramount.

The PROUDLY Manenberg Initiative had some destructive individuals that undermined the Community.

Mario Wanza has really done great damage to this community.

Helen Zille attacked it – she saw it as a threat so the structure collapsed.

Father Mark,interviewed at St Mark Anglican parish, speaking about Lavender Hill

I have been in Lavender Hill for nine years now. Prior to this I was at a parish in Somerset West.

There is a serious lack of apprentices in the traditional trades of coloured people. These schools have failed young people.

This focus on entrepreneurship excludes many kids with other talents. No expression is given to the creative side and the ability to work with your hands. Everybody cannot be an entrepreneur or a businessman. Our schools are soulless places for young people, and they drop out. It really saddens me to see the young people losing interest in school.

There is a lot of nostalgia for apartheid here, because its memory in communities like this was of skills programmes and artisan mentorships. Back then you had some chance even if you were not academic and dropped out or left school earlier.

These ceasefires and truces are a joke. As soon as these so-called truces are signed, the gangsters leave to continue the drug trade in the flats and courts of Lavender Hill.

There is no sense of belonging in this community. I think we must strive to build deeply injured communities with hope and understanding. We must build communities of man rather than strong coloured or Xhosa communities.

I am really disappointed sometimes at my own fellow clergy – how they in many ways gave up on the poor in exchange for a comfortable life. We have three-year periods of stay at a parish but many prefer not to venture here. Instead they chase the wealthier and more privileged churches like Constantia and Fish Hoek.

Many young people feel excluded from the churches and the mosques. They take up a moralistic and judgmental attitude towards them without understanding the circumstances they are forced to confront. I am of the opinion that we must reach out. There is a very vibrant civil society here. We work closely together with the New World Foundation.

There is an open field alongside the church, which is really a no man’s land. It is used on Sundays for football. This should be a good thing, but it is being used by gangsters as a recruiting ground and a place for drug peddling. I have often brought this to the attention of the local councilor.

Gerald Morkel, who preceded the current councillor here, ended his political career representing this area. He had very little strategy or interest in making a difference here. And it contributes to this day.

I think the DA here rests on people’s fears and in fact do very little for the area. If they were really serious about upliftment they would invest in the area in terms of job creation and creating opportunities.

Anglicanism throughout its history has always sided with the poor and the downtrodden, but still you find ideas in church that parishes should work independently and not support each other. The mere suggestion is to my mind anti-gospel and an acceptance of inequality. Just a few weeks ago I had to take around one of our archbishops who is part of the READ literacy network when they had an activity at a library close by.

I was quite disappointed at the lack of a social message coming from him. He knows the conditions in our area. He basically just introduced himself and sat down.

It was indicative of the detachment that the clergy now displays towards the poor.

I thought Brian O’Connell from a secular standpoint gave a far more touching and inspirational speech. He read a poem about Christopher Columbus, using the metaphor of discovery to the show the wide horizons available to young people

Just down the road on the wealthier seaboard you find parishes able to have a gardening service – imagine that here?

The message of vigilantism has no place here: the idea that violence begets violence cannot be acceptable. I had to evict and put out someone from this very hall the other day who was advocating such intolerance.

We cannot save the whole of Lavender Hill but we can work with and encourage individuals. I am immensely proud of the new facility we’ve built here: the community is using it.

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