Khayelitsha demands safety

2010-09-23 17:44

Cape Town – Rights groups and Khayelitsha residents gathered outside the Western Cape Provincial Legislature in Cape Town on Thursday demanding improved access to justice, safety and the alleviation of other social problems in the township.

They handed over a memorandum stating their demands to Dr Gilbert Lawrence, head of department for community safety.

The Social Justice Coalition (SJC), Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), Equal Education (EE), Free Gender, Aids Legal Network, Triangle Project and Lumkela Lisizwe said they want “to address wide-ranging problems faced by our communities - from inadequate sanitation and education, to HIV, TB and homophobia”.

Among other demands stated in the memorandum, the groups want Western Cape Community Development MEC Albert Fritz, with the support Justice Minister Jeff Radebe, to initiate a one-person commission headed by a judge to compile a rapid assessment of systematic problems in the Khayelitsha Magistrate's Court to be completed within three months.

One case highlighted in the memorandum is that of Zoliswa Nkonyana, who was murdered in 2006 for allegedly being openly lesbian. The memorandum states that the trial for the alleged murderers was “been delayed over 27 times in the four years and seven months since the murder occurred”.

“The main state witness was attacked on the day of Zoliswa’s murder and later threatened by the accused during the trial, causing her to flee the province. She has not been afforded the necessary protection and support by the prosecuting authority or the courts.”

Justice system lies

“The justice system lies to us as the people of Khayelitsha,” said Free Gender co-ordinator Funeka Soldaat. “We do not want to listen to them (justice system) anymore, we are hoping to make them very uncomfortable.”

SJC secretary Axolile Notywala said another issue faced by the Khayelitsha community was that of policing.

“The police say that they cannot go to informal settlements when a crime is reported because there are no streets,” said Notywala, adding that even if criminals were caught, they were soon back on the streets.

“A criminal would be arrested for committing a crime, and released without the family of the victim being informed. A family would all of a sudden see them walking in the street.

“We demand safety and dignity for the residents of Khayelitsha,” he said.

Equal Education’s Lumkile Zani said that education in the community was another area that needed close attention.

Issues not addressed

“During apartheid, we had youth fighting against inequality in education. In 1994, we had democratic elections and we hoped that these issues would be addressed.

“Today, these things that we were fighting for in 1976 have still to be addressed. We also need to raise awareness in other provinces.”

Zani told News24 that in order for that to happen, they would need to “stand up and mobilise” communities.

“Government never takes people seriously in this country.” He said now that there is democracy, “we don’t use methods of violence (to demonstrate) like in the old days, which is a good thing, but it takes time if we approach them in a peaceful and non-violent manner”.

He said a lack of facilities, libraries, science and computer labs, and overcrowded classrooms were just some of the issues schools in Khayelitsha had to deal with. The ratio is 60 pupils to one teacher in some cases, said Zani.

“It is a lack of competency within the department of education,” he said, adding that teachers were teaching in unfavourable conditions.

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