Anti-gang violence protesters demand to see Helen Zille

2018-10-03 16:21
Protesters at the shutdown march. (Christina Pitt, News24)

Protesters at the shutdown march. (Christina Pitt, News24)

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Protesters frustrated by ongoing gang violence in the Western Cape were disappointed on Wednesday when they went to hand over a memorandum to the provincial legislature following a march and found that Premier Helen Zille was not there to receive it.

Western Cape United Safety Front rallied around 250 people to march to Parliament and the provincial legislature in Cape Town's city centre to protest gang and gender-based violence.

The crowd became impatient and started chanting "we want the madam" when a representative from the provincial legislature arrived to accept the memorandum.

"Look at the disregard that they have for the communities of the Western Cape. She sends a spokesperson – this is unacceptable," organiser John Coetzee said.

The memorandum was eventually received by a police officer. A copy was handed over at Parliament and signed by chairperson of Parliament's police committee Francois Beukman.

Demands included an end to gang violence; a community-based evaluation system of police stations and station commanders; enforcement of the provisions in the Domestic Violence Act and the independent research and analysis of police resource allocation.

Shortage of police officers

Beukman acknowledged the issues raised by the organisation and said that the portfolio committee would go over the memorandum very carefully.

"[With] gang violence, in any part of the world, the police are part of the solution. You need a strategic intervention involving other government departments, civil society, business – everybody," he said.

"Gang violence roots are in socio-economic deprivation."

Beukman said that the Western Cape had the largest shortage of police officers in the country.

According to a report compiled by the Public Service Commission (PSC), 85% of police stations in the province are understaffed.

The standing committee on community safety in the Western Cape legislature asked the PSC to investigate last year after it held a series of public hearings into the matter.

Plight of Cape Flats children highlighted

PSC commissioner Bruno Luthuli, who compiled the report, said the plan should have a specific focus on stations that were highlighted during the Khayelitsha Commission into Policing as having serious constraints.

He also recommended that critical vacant funded posts be filled within six months.

Young children led the march and held signs bearing the names of the victims of child murders.

A youth representative from Mitchells Plain, Shanice Appels, highlighted the plight of many children on the Cape Flats.

"It's amazing to see young people come out. Basically, in the Cape Flats it's a privilege to reach the age of 21 because so many young people are robbed of their futures," she said.

"Living on the Cape Flats we are held hostage and there is no help. Yes, there are amazing police officers but, we also have police officers who are working with the gangsters."

Cele moots imbizo, specialised gang unit

Women's rights activist Lucinda Evans from the Mitchells Plain Crisis Forum held a sign with drawings of female genitalia and the words "los my p**s af (leave my vagina alone)".

"I came with this poster to offend you for the next 365 days because our p****s are under siege. Forty thousand women in the past financial year reported rape," she said passionately.

"We want to tell the honourable Cyril Ramaphosa: 'We do not want to come to your fancy Joburg summit. Come to the Cape Flats. Speak to the women leaders of the Cape Flats'."

Last week, Police Minister Bheki Cele addressed #TotalShutdown protesters in Bonteheuwel who had similar concerns.

Cele suggested an imbizo and the reintroduction of a specialised gang unit in the Western Cape as possible solutions.

Read more on:    cape town  |  service delivery  |  crime  |  protests

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