Maimane, de Lille attend Manenberg prayer meeting

2016-06-09 21:16
(Thulani Gqirana, News24)

(Thulani Gqirana, News24)

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Cape Town - DA leader Mmusi Maimane's arrival in Manenberg for a multi-faith prayer meeting on Thursday was marked with cheers and applause.

"Let's give him a real Manenberg welcome," said Democratic Alliance constituency chairperson Sam Henkeman in a modest community hall packed with about 300 people.

A schoolboy in the front row broke ranks to take a selfie with Maimane, showing it proudly to his friends and the women around him.

But underneath the warm smiles and enthusiastic clapping, lay grief and sadness.

Having survived being torn away from homes in "white" areas of Cape Town during apartheid's hated separate development policy, whole generations in the area have been suffering through gangsterism and drug abuse.

Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille arrived shortly after Maimane, walking up the centre aisle, greeting and hugging people along the way who were cheering for her.

Hope in the midst of turmoil

The choir from the Leadership College led the singing of the national anthem with Henkeman squeezing in a small boast about the college's more than 90% matric pass rate and the seven distinctions a pupil achieved a few years back.

"Amidst the crime and amidst the turmoil there is great hope," said Henkeman proudly.

But it was the crime and turmoil that brought the DA leaders out for the interfaith prayer meeting.

To the outsider, Manenberg may be better known as the name of the famous jazz composition by South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim. But to those packed into the hall, it is the place where 13 people died in gang violence in April.

Police reinforcements were sent in and, said DA MP Shahid Esau to those gathered, "Councillors have even had to duck and dive for cover from bullets. Those who live here, they face this every day. It has become a norm."

Several women told their stories to those gathered, through tears and voices shaky with grief.

Young life left behind

"I have a problem that cannot be healed at all," said one woman. "I lost my oldest child one year and six months ago."
A woman battling to hold back tears spoke angrily of a 14-year-old boy beaten to death with a slab of vibracrete.

She softened when she said helplessly, "I know he is in a better place, but he left a young life behind. He did nothing... he wasn't a gangster... he did nothing."

"Manenberg never used to be like this," said De Lille.

Since people were evicted from the ''white'' areas and dumped in places like Lavender Hill and Manenberg, they had to build a community again from scratch.

"They had their own beautiful homes, they were not used to living like this," said De Lille, over murmurs of agreement, and babies crying.

Breaking the silence

But she laid some of the blame for Manenberg's problems at the door of the community.

"Those gangsters, those drug dealers, are our children... We must break the silence. We must say where the meth heads live, where the taverners live," she said in Afrikaans.

She urged people not to buy stolen goods because more than likely the money was going towards drugs, and to keep their children inside when there was trouble so they would not be caught in the crossfire.

De Lille warned that anybody caught dealing in drugs or running a shebeen from a council house would be evicted. She used the opportunity to punt the city's 24-hour drug helpline on 0800435748. There an addict or worried parent would be told how to get help from one of the city's Matrix rehabilitation programmes.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane said, "There is a pain in South Africa about what is happening to our young people, and the effects of drugs," he said, while people sized him up.

"Some people associate drugs with a certain race. Surely when we look at Manenberg we can't make the assumption to say when you come to Manenberg you must lock your doors. There can be hope."

Call for unity

Maimane said apartheid and bantu education had set out to make people think they could not achieve anything, trapping them in a cycle of poverty, but there is hope.

He called on the community to be united against people who brought violence into the community and to report them.

He understood that there was once a reluctance to hand people over to the police because the justice system was not fair, but this attitude and a sort of kinship with the troublemakers should not continue.

"We must make it clear - no, he's a tsotsi and he must end up in jail. As painful as that is," said Maimane.

He told them to be suspicious of people who suddenly came into lots of money, because they were probably up to something dubious.

Message from Tutu

"Surely our prayer today must be: May that child live a long and full life and achieve the dream their parents built for them. South Africa needs people who can stand up and say we are proud of who we are," he said.

"Not as drug dealers, not as criminals, but as people who are contributing to society."

Before the meeting ended, 103-year-old Georgina Luckes was carried on her chair to the front of the hall to have happy birthday sung to her.

A pre-recorded message from Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu closed the meeting.

Tutu, looking thinner and more serious than usual, called for prayer for the gangsters and their victims.

Read more on:    da  |  mmusi maimane  |  patricia de lille  |  cape town  |  narcotics

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