Young and old took to the streets to make a desperate call for gang violence in Cafda and the surrounding areas to come to an end.
Several people have been shot and killed in gang-related shootings over the past month.
The youngest victim was one-year-old Tashwill Junior (TJ) Nel who was shot and killed in a drive- by shooting in Komlossy Street on Sunday July 8.
On Saturday July 14 residents took part in two separate marches, screaming “Stop the violence”, “Stop killing our boys and girls” and “We want peace”.
Youngsters from the area walked the streets of Cafda, Retreat and Steenberg, where there are known gang houses and gangsters, displaying their posters and pleading for peace.
The group of youngsters marched to the Steenberg police station to hand over a memorandum and asked police to report back to the community with a “clear and concise plan of action” within seven days of receiving the memorandum.
The memorandum reads: “For too long our communities have been held hostage and marginalised by a few elements in our community and many innocent young children have lost their lives due to gangsterism. Our right to live dignified is being violated on a daily basis. The plight of gang violence causes great pain and suffering within the community.
The memorandum also states that police were not doing enough to keep communities safe and an urgent intervention was needed.
One of the young men who led the march said the community’s boys were scared to walk the streets of Cafda as they were often targeted in cases of mistaken identity.
He did not want to be identified as he feared for his safety.
“Young innocent people are being sent to an early grave due to gangsterism. We as boys are traumatised because we are so easily targeted. We grew up with gangsters and sometimes just greeting them or associating with them could get us killed.
“We organised the march because we need all relevant parties, especially the police to protect us. We are tired of being held hostage in our own community. There were never shootings in Cafda. We never had shootings but now we have daily shootings. We need it to stop because we want our community back,” he said.
Their demands include that all stakeholders including police, law enforcement agencies, community leaders, faith-based organisations, youth groups, community leaders, political organisations, City of Cape Town departments, provincial and national government must deliberate and present the community with a plan of action.
Other demands include witness protection for people who give police information about gangsters and gang activities because their lives are at stake, the need for officers to be redeployed or rotated to avoid familiarity and prevent corruption and for police to treat all people with dignity and respect.
“People are scared that if they do give the police information they will be targeted. They need to be protected when they come forward with information,” said the young man.
Community worker Pastor André Rhoda said the march was called to give a clear message to gangsters that the community had had enough.
“We want these youngsters who are running around with the guns to understand that we do not want them terrorising our community anymore. We want our children to be children again and to play outside safely. We want parents to be able to come home from work safely. People are so scared to even walk to and from the shops,” he said.
Mr Rhoda said the community refused to sit back anymore and allow gang violence.
“We can’t just depend on police anymore We need to stand up and fight back and take back our community,” said Mr Rhoda.
He said parents needed to start taking responsibility and speaking up when their children did wrong.
“Neighbours are too scared to speak for fear of being targeted, but when we stand together we can start to make a change,” said Mr Rhoda.
Steenberg Community Police Forum (CPF) chairperson Gavin Walbrugh said the forum wholeheartedly supports any initiatives to clear the area of drugs and gangsterism.
“The problem we have is that the community doesn’t always stand together. We need the whole community to stand together. We call on the community to take part in marches, to march to drug dealers and gangsters’ houses and make it clear that those who cause the violence are not welcome in the area,” he said.
Mr Walbrugh said there are more law abiding citizens in the community than criminals.
“We need those law abiding citizens to come with force to take back their community,” he said.
Mr Walbrugh also encouraged people to come forward with information that could lead to the arrests of those involved with gang activities.
Lieutenant Colonel Murphy Papa from Steenberg police accepted the memorandum on behalf of the police station’s management.
“As people have come up in their numbers for marches I also urge people to come up in their numbers against the war against gangsterism by coming forward with information. The community knows where the guns are hidden but don’t come forward with the information.
“People expect the police to do miracles but they don’t give witness statements and they don’t want to testify. I know people are afraid for their lives but it needs to be done to fight gangsterism. We need to start working together,” said Lieutenant Colonel Papa.
Another march was held later in the day by church groups in the area also calling for peace. They prayed at the locations where people had been shot.