Day of reconciliation

Lucinda Evans comforts Heidi Petersen, the mother of one of the teens who was shot dead last month.

It was an emotional day when families of slain gang violence victims took part in a reconciliation event.

There wasn’t a dry eye in the
Seawinds multi purpose centre on Sunday April 14 when
families shared their stories of
how relatives were either gang members or shot and killed as a re-
sult of the gang violence in Sea-
winds, Hillview, Cafda, Village Heights, Vrygrond, Steenberg, Retreat, Cafda and the greater Lavender Hill area.

The “Community Healing and Reconciliation Dialogue” was hosted by community leader Lucinda Evans in partnership with the Steenberg Community Police Forum (CPF), the Mitchell’s Plain Cluster CPF, the Vrygrond Safety Forum, Muizenberg police, Steenberg police, community stakeholders and various religious fraternals.

Ms Evans said this was the first event of its kind in the area and was a much-needed dialogue as communities were traumatised because of the ongoing gang shootings in their communities.

She said there will be more of these gatherings to start the healing process for people who are still reeling from the violence in their communities.

Trauma counsellors were on standby to assist families who lost loved ones.

“We hope that this event will make a difference. The idea for this event was born when three youths were killed in St Montague Village (“‘How many more lives?’”, Southern Mail, March 20).

She said initially they were
going to march to the gang
leaders’ homes but it was then decided to bring grieving families together.

“As a community we have all lost, some of the lives lost were innocent and some were part of a gang. But this event was aimed at getting peace within the hearts of families. We have tried everything – we
have marched, protested, burnt tyres and everything else – but we need to have a discussion, even with the parents of those people who have children who are gangsters,” she said.

Ms Evans said mothers whose children are gangster also need support: “Today we want to meet those mothers halfway. We are not going to condemn them, we want to embrace them, to find out how we can help,”

The communities in Seawinds, Vrygrond and the greater Lavender Hill cannot cross “borders” established by gangsters because of the different gang territories.

“Innocent people are afraid to walk in some areas because of
gang territory. We are going to
stop this because we want our
communities to be free,”said Ms Evans.

Melanie van Nelson, mother of Courtney Jackson,16, who was s
hot and killed just over a year ago (“Tears for slain teen”, Southern Mail, March 14 2018) told of
her two sons who were impacted by gangsterism – Courtney was
shot and killed by gangsters and
her other son is a Mongrels gangster.

She became emotional when she recalled the heartbreaking day her son was shot and killed. “A rival gang to the Mongrels started targeting him. I tried to get my family another home just to get my son out of the situation but it was too late. They shot and killed my innocent child and it has been difficult …” she said before breaking down, unable to continue.

Several other parents were given an opportunity to tell their stories.

Sub-council chairperson Shanen Rossouw said the event was pivotal because most stakeholders attended and it was a time for victims to tell their stories.

“We need to get peace. We need peace for children to go to school; to go to school without fear. For parents to go to work and come home without the fear of being shot. That peace starts here today with the help of those who are here today,” said Ms Rossouw.

Lieutenant-General Khombinkosi Jula, the provincial police commissioner who was supposed to attend the event but couldn’t, was represented by provincial head of visible policing, Brigadier Fred Alexander.

We stand with the communities and understand their pain. To the victim’s we are with you. We need to stand together so the community can help us as police. We call upon you to participate in the community structures such as neighbourhood watches and CPFs. We cannot work on our own, we have to work in partnership with the community. We have a mandate to provide safety and security to the community but how do we do that in isolation of the community? They are the ones who know and who see what happens. So we need residents to work with us,” urged Brigadier Alexander.

He undertook to work hand-in-hand with organisations and stakeholders to deal with crime “head-

Ms Evans said the next step is to start a support group for families who have lost loved ones and to provide support for grieving families, to create activities aimed at boy children, men and father’s programmes and men-to-men programmes.

“We need to start these programmes because it is important to offer young men alternatives (to gangsterism and drugs). Currently there aren’t many alternatives. Later in the month we are going to have a meeting to introduce a support group which will be for bereavement and court case support. The men-to-men programme and the boys’ youth programme will then follow,” said
Ms Evans.