Child safety a priority

A number of holiday programmes are being hosted to keep children busy this festive period.

The recent increase in sporadic shootings in Steenberg, Lavender Hill and surrounding areas have parents fearing for their children’s lives.

Last week two children were among five people shot in a drive by shooting in Choir Street, Steenberg, and on Tuesday November 28, three children were shot in Wilmar Street, Lavender Hill (“Residents at risk”, Southern Mail, December 6).

The shootings were gang related.

Over the past two weeks several other people have been injured and six killed in gang shootings, including a taxi driver.

Jade Claasen, from Steenberg, said the shootings have traumatised the community. “We’re too scared to let our children play outside or go to the shop because the gangsters are shooting in broad daylight with no regard for our children. “Now that it’s school holidays the children are even more at risk. They are the ultimate victims in this gang war,” said Ms Claasen.

The mother of two will be sending her children to her mother in Heathfield for most of the school holidays.

“I’d rather have them in a safe place where they can play outside or in the yard without fear of being shot at,” she said.

Another parent, Washiema Abbar whose son was playing in a park near the spot where two children were shot last week, said she doesn’t let her son out of her sight. “Children want to be outside and to play with others. After the shootings I don’t let my child walk or play outside without supervision anymore. It was safe before because they usually play in groups but with the shootings I sit at the park and watch him. Children look forward to the holidays but now they have to watch over their shoulder because they don’t know when the next bullet is going to fly by. It’s very sad,” said Ms Abbar.

Colonel Jan Alexander, commander at Steenberg police station, said the children’s safety is their priority, especially during the 16 Days of Activism For No Violence Against Women and Children campaign, which ended on Sunday December 10.

“Over the past few weeks there have been retaliation shootings between gangs because a prominent gang leader was killed. Everyone including children are at risk because of the ongoing war between these gangs. We encourage parents to be responsible for their child’s security and safety, to always know their children’s whereabouts,” said Colonel Alexander.

He said police are doing their best to deal with gangsterism in the area.

Gavin Walbrugh, chairperson for the Steenberg Community Police Forum (CPF), condemned the recent shootings. “Children are being shot during the 16 Days of Activism (campaign). We as a community need to stand together and keep our children safe. The CPF is doing so by endorsing and supporting churches and organisations such as Guardians of the National Treasure (GNT) who have holiday programmes,” he said.

“I encourage all organisations and churches to do so as this keeps our children off the corners of the streets and the shops where they usually stand where they are at risk. We also ask the community to come forward with information to apprehend the gangsters who are harming our children,” said Mr Walbrugh. Parkwood community worker John Bean said holiday programmes not only keep children off the streets but also prevent them from being recruited by gangs.

“Ten year olds are running around with guns. This is the reality on the Cape Flats. One of the ways we can stop this is by hosting holiday and other programmes to keep children positively active,” he said.

Mr Bean has been active in starting a youth choir in Parkwood. “Instead of gangsters giving these kids a gun we are giving them an instrument. We won’t fight gangsters with guns but with music and art,” he said.

The City of Cape Town also has various holiday programmes across the Cape to keep children occupied.

JP Smith, Mayoral committee member for safety and security; and social services, said school holidays can be a time of boredom for pupils and one of worry for parents.

“Our holiday programme caters for a broad range of tastes, for those who prefer being indoors or outdoors, with both physical and non-physical activities, from nature and music, to sport and art. I want to encourage parents to send their children to these programmes to not only keep them busy, but also give them the opportunity to socialise and learn. They can have some good old-fashioned fun in a safe and inclusive space,” said Mr Smith.

For more information on the City’s holiday programmes visit programmes