Lavender Hill faces daily angst while leaders offer hope

Residents in Lavender Hill live in fear of gangsters but community activists are trying to make a difference.

Lavender Hill residents have been living in fear and something as simple as going to the shop can put their lives in danger.

The struggles of being threatened and manipulated by gangsters are the norm, leaving many residents afraid to speak out and they continue to live in fear.

Leanne Reid, spokesperson of Steenberg Community Police Forum (CPF), said it is well known by community members and leaders who the shooters and perpetrators of illegal activity are. “This information can only be acted on by SAPS if relevant, useful leads are reported to the,” she said.

While community activists in Lavender Hill shared their experiences of working tirelessly to change the situation by giving residents hope through offering uplifting projects, a resident spoke to Southern Mail about his daily challenges.

Peter Lakey, 42, an artist, from Lavender Hill, said he was “willing to give the blunt truth about Lavender Hill”.

Mr Lakay said although he nearly lost his life he was a survivor. “I kept on and still keep on. I have five children. We have stayed here for seven years now and it’s been hell.”

Mr Lakay said he is not a community worker “as I tried that but too much instigating happening around me. If you stand for truth here you will get hurt or worse but we are getting sick and tired of the child killings in Lavender Hill. “My daughter also gets constantly bullied and there’s no help for her, I tried.”

He said he struggles to make an honest living in Lavender Hill. “I’m an artist. I make furniture and crafts and sell it online.”

He said there is no opportunity to have an exhibition in the area.

Mr Lakay said he is not afraid to stand up for human rights. “Once, the community stormed into my place because I spoke out about men hitting their wives and mothers here and it got swept under the rug.”

Mr Lakay said just by walking to the shop his daughter gets attacked: “Most days my daughter gets bullied and after years only we opened a case at Steenberg SAPS. She has cigarette burns and they beat her with a sock filled with stones and it’s mostly boys doing the bullying. On one occasion a grown woman hit her but nothing happened because my wife was threatened by the locals.”

Mr Lakay said his daughter has “too many scars from this place”.

“Her whole body has ugly scars from kids bullying her because we speak out against everything unfair and mainly concerning us.”

Captain Richard Marcus, spokesperson of Steenberg police, confirmed that two case numbers had been registered for “Mr Peter Lakay and a 10-year-old female victim”.

Ralph Bouwers, a community activist gets busy with educating children.

Ralph Bouwers, founder of Guardians of the National Treasure (GNT), a non-profit organisation, and community activist who was born and bred in Lavender Hill, went overseas to study and work and returned in 2017 to give back to his community.

Mr Bouwers gave an analysis of the behaviour pattern of the children he had been working with since he came back from England: “The situation is so far removed we are struggling with a fair amount of behavioural issues in the ages 8 to 9 category. We find it a challenge with 10 to 16 heavily affected.

He said the GNT offers positive programmes for children. “We will focus on family structure. We started playing tennis and saw great talent and enthusiasm. Challenged by logistics and manpower this project would give hope, higher self worth, belonging, self actualising. The children sit in the shadow of neglect and we expect a different result.”

Mr Bouwers said the key to the hearts of the children is soccer. “We will lose all of them unless we look at what Lavender Hill Football and Wellness Club is doing. Boarded support and they need help to scale. Again logistics are a challenge – comfortable facilities for these children standing in the cold when they play sport the entire day.”

Mr Bouwers maintains that everyone needs an outlet. “Youth Pet Care should be supported, care and love for animals is a therapy on its own. It’s not too difficult to heal a community. The difficulty lies with the tools and change maker. Before we can change comes hope. We give hope by shining a light in the dark. We must give people a sense of purpose, a way to make an honest living for basic needs.”

The neglect of elders was also an issue in Lavender Hill. “We have hundreds of elders, all in homes, some with no food, no company, no electricity and we ask why is Lavender Hill and similar areas on the Cape Flats so broken.”

Mr Bouwers said: “The GNT will continue to help with the support of our partners local and international. If I had the power we would start real economic empowerment with a wellness census.”

Clive Jacobs has been serving the community for over 30 years.

Clive Jacobs, who has been a community leader for over 30 years, said his biggest concern is unity and working together. “It seems the majority of the active organisations find it a difficulty to bring a service across to the communities.”

Mr Jacobs said: “My aim for the future is to encourage leaders within our societies to make services available for children and our youth where they can feel free to express their shortcomings at home and at school.”

Ms Reid said residents need to report crime and there is a system in place to combat crime: “Unity in community leadership is the first step to addressing safety issues. The Steenberg CPF is a body of 80 plus individuals and organisations of which most leaders are members. The four sectors each have a sub-forum with a monthly meeting. Active participation in sector and plenary meetings however is low in our precinct, and especially in Lavender Hill. While we all have busy schedules and many priorities, crime has an adverse impact on development projects in the area. We need leaders to attend meetings, to contribute constructively and organise themselves to be able to pro-actively tackle issues in the community.”

Ms Reid said the Steenberg CPF has circulated a proposal for the formation of a Retreat Development Forum as has been established in other areas such as Khayelitsha and Tableview.

“The purpose of this CPF initiative would be to create social cohesion through a collective approach. The forum would develop disaster response protocols, and organise the various members based on their strengths, resources and capacity. As a unified voice we would be better able to hold the government accountable and streamline communication and activities to efficiently serve the community. This is still under review and discussion with relevant stakeholders.”

Ms Reid advised that reporting crime was an important civic duty. “SAPS resources are allocated based on statistics and so while it may be inconvenient and sometimes may not be fruitful for the complainant, the number of cases reported will help to improve the capacity of Steenberg SAPS in time. These resources include manpower and vehicles which will help with quicker response times and improved service delivery overall.

“It is well known by community members and leaders who the shooters and perpetrators of illegal activity are and who their families are. This information can only be acted on by SAPS if relevant, useful leads are reported to them.”

If anyone witnesses a crime call 10111, directly with Steenberg SAPS or using the MySapsApp available from Google Play Store.