'This is not what my life should be like': Children fear return to school amid Cape Town gang violence

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  • Residents of Hanover Park in Cape Town say living in the area is painfully difficult due to violence.
  • Schoolchildren fear going back to school next week amid daily gang violence.
  • Children as young as nine years old are joining gangs.

"My parents kept me inside the house most of the holiday period because of these stupid gangsters."

This is what many pupils in Hanover Park, Cape Town, say about their school holiday, as the ongoing gang violence in the area has them fearing for their lives. Many say they fear going back to school next week because morning shootings have spiralled out of control.

When News24 visited the area on Friday, it was relatively quiet. Groups of men who, according to the community policing forum (CPF) are gangsters, sat on staircases, each with glasses filled with beer as bottles stood beside them, while they watched and whispered to one another, "Hulle is van die media" (They are from the media). The men eagerly nodded and showed hand signs as residents made their way home in Algoa and Howick courts.

A group of pupils, some as young as eight years old, told News24 living on the Cape Flats was "junk" and "horrible" because many of them were forced to stay behind closed doors when gunshots rang out.

"When my mommy hears the gunshots, she lets no one out of the house. If she sees on the WhatsApp group that shootings are happening in the fields or the courts, then we mustn't even think of asking her if we can go kick ball outside. It's not nice to live like this," said one pupil.

READ | 'Mommy Mommy!': Woman hides under her bed as gunshots ring out in Manenberg gang war

The youngsters told stories of wanting to go to the local pool or play in the park with their friends, but when they would ask their parents if they could go out, the answer was a cold "no".

"Other parents allowed their children to go to the pool but our parents said no. I really wish these gangsters can just leave the area and never come back. It's not nice to live here," the emotional teen said.

"There were lots of nights when I was watching TV, then the shooting starts, and we must all lie on the floor immediately because the bullets can fly through the windows anytime. I'm only 14 years old; this is not what my life should be like."

According to CPF spokesperson Kashiefa Mohammed, they have recorded 17 murders and 29 attempted murders in the area since October last year. Children as young as nine years old are seen walking around with firearms, and some even take the weapons with them to school.

READ | Undertakers forced to jump into graves as gun salute rings out for burial of gangsters

The most recent murder was that of a 40-year-old man who was shot dead in Lucern Place on Thursday.

"Philippi police are investigating a case of murder. The deceased sustained multiple gunshot wounds... and medical personnel declared him dead at the crime scene. The suspects are unknown, and no arrests have been made," police spokesperson Captain FC van Wyk said.

Resident Anwar Abrahams welcomed the death of the 40-year-old man, saying he had allegedly shot dead his son five years ago.

hanover park
Kashiefa Mohammed and Yaseen Johaar say they're saddened by the killings in Hanover Park.
Hanover Park
Schoolchildren in Hanover Park say they fear going back to school next week due to gang violence in the area.
gang violence
Resident Anwar Abrahams said his son's killer was shot dead on Thursday, five years after his death.

"That man killed my son in cold blood five years ago. He never went to jail. Every day, I had to see him roaming the streets, walking past me and not showing any remorse for what he did.

"When I heard they shot him dead, I left my house to go to the scene to make sure it was him. I feel nothing for that man who died. He felt nothing when he shot my son dead. Now, I have peace that he is forever out of residents' lives. For five years, I waited for this day," Abrahams said.

Meanwhile, an attempted murder case has been opened after shots were fired in Algoa Court.

READ | 'Our people are suffering': Concerns as gang violence erupts on Cape Flats

"According to reports, the 50-year-old complainant was at home when he [argued] with a family member. He left, and while standing outside, he saw the suspect coming up the stairs, holding a firearm in his hand. He randomly started shooting inside the house. The complainant took cover behind a wall. The mirror was damaged. No injuries were reported," Van Wyk said.

Last weekend, a 15-year-old girl was shot and wounded on Ryburg Road. Police opened an attempted murder case.

"According to reports, Philippi police were called to a crime scene where they found the victim with gunshot wounds to her body. The victim was taken to a medical facility for medical treatment. The unknown suspects fled the scene and were yet to be arrested. The motive for the shooting is yet to be established," police spokesperson Sergeant Wesley Twigg said.

A "handful of murders" were taking place in the courts in the area every weekend, the CPF said.

Mohammed said:

The gangs are at war with themselves over leadership, turf, drugs, money and women. Over the past few years, we have seen a noticeable increase in women joining gangs and getting themselves addicted to drugs. Our people living in this area feel that there is no life for them outside gangsterism. There's money in joining gangs, and youngsters are drawn to that.

According to Mohammed, the CPF has been imploring residents to "wake up and stop covering up for gangsters who do wrong".

"Parents that know their children are gangsters will always cover up for them. Even when police look for them, they (parents) hide their child despite the wrong they did. If you as a parent know your child murdered someone, why are you keeping quiet about it?

"Do you not want to see the community become a safe space for people to live in? We must work with the police to bring peace to this place. Enough is now enough. We cannot keep living like we are being held hostage," Mohammed added.

According to Mohammed, she knows what the death of an innocent child does to a parent after she lost her son Raffiq to gang violence in the area.

"My son was killed on my birthday five years ago and, since then, I... never celebrate my birthday [anymore]. It's a bitter pill to swallow; he was an innocent child. I still think of him every day because it doesn't get easier knowing he will never come back."

She added:

We need these gangsters to just stop what they're doing. They are taking away innocent people for their gain, and it's not right.

The CPF said police officers hardly did patrols in the area. On Friday, while News24 visited different parts of Hanover Park, only one law enforcement vehicle with four officers inside patrolled the area.

Meanwhile, City of Cape Town Metro Police Department spokesperson Ruth Solomons said the Special Operations Unit had increased its deployment in gang-infested areas, especially Manenberg, Heideveld and Hanover Park.

"Special Operations will increase their visible policing patrols from next week, which will include schools," Solomons said.

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