’Lavender Hill needs urgent help’

Adele Campbell spoke about gender-based violence at the meeting on Friday February 11.

The body count in Lavender Hill and Hillview, week on week, resembles a low intensity civil war – these are the words of a member of parliament who spurred an urgent intervention in Lavender Hill.

Stakeholders, including community leaders, organisation heads, police and other concerned community members had the opportunity to speak openly about their concerns relating to violence in the area, at a gathering hosted by the national Department of Social Development and its minister Lindiwe Zulu.

Some of the issues include the ongoing gang violence, gender-based violence, the lack of facilities for children and youth, the escalating drug problem, teen pregnancies and many others mentioned by those who were in attendance at the meeting on Friday February 11.

The forum was initiated by member of parliament Marie Sukers who is on the portfolio committee for social development, health and basic education who compared the ongoing violence to a civil war.

Ms Sukers was on the panel alongside Ms Zulu who took questions and heard the distressed pleas of those in attendance to assess their needs and investigate how the department, in partnership with other stakeholders, could address social ills in the area for the development of the greater south peninsula.

In May last year, she pleaded for the minister to address their concerns and find a way forward to make positive changes in the affected areas. In response, during her budget vote, Ms Zulu promised to visit the area.

It was this promise which was fulfilled on Friday.

Dorothy Soetwater addressed the panel.

The week before her visit officials of the department held dialogues with the community of Lavender Hill to get a better understanding of the circumstances in order to find solutions together.

When Ms Sukers made the request to the department, she likened the state in Lavender Hill to a triage system in a hospital. “In a triage system the red patient is the most critical patient who needs to get the doctor’s attention first.

“Lavender Hill, Steeneberg, Seawinds and the others here on the Cape Flats are that red patient. We are that red on the map of South Africa in terms of a triage system. We need urgent help from government.”

During the discussion Lavender Hill-born Karen Maarman, who heads up a feeding and empowerment NPO, reiterated the need for more programmes in Lavender Hill.

Concerned resident Henry Noude lambasted the previous lack of intervention by government departments. “Since 1994 there have been many MPs who walked through our community, wrote down our burning issues, took it to their offices but never returned .

“For the past almost 30 years we have had these concerns and we’ve been fighting for intervention. Nothing has changed.”

He asked the minister to stay true to her word and come back with solutions to the issues that were raised. ‘“Please don’t just throw the report in your office and forget about it because then you will be forgetting the people of Lavender Hill. Please hear our pleas.”

Other community workers asked what the department had planned to combat gender-based violence and foster youth development.

Mark Nicholson addressed police corruption and other issues.

Mark Nicholson from the Lavender Hill Sports and Recreation Foundation said the biggest problem faced by the community was the lack of police services, corruption and the justice system.

“There are still too many rotten apples in the police system and that is part of the reason the violence continues. Our children are being murdered and every time the culprits walk free. Why are they being let out on the streets again? Every time a gangster who was arrested for murder comes back out, more people die.

“Our children are suffering and they are scared to go to school because gangsters have created borders and people cant walk in other parts of the community because of these boundaries. It shouldn’t be the way it is.”

The meeting was held at the Lavender Hill High School hall.

Mr Nicholson also questioned the availability of facilities and halls in the area to run programmes from.

“We are offering programmes on a field called the battle field because we can’t secure facilities because we are not allowed to use it. They are white elephants and only certain people are able to use them.”

Other issues raised include the lack of social workers, social services, and the importance of organisations working together rather than in silos.

Ms Zulu committed to addressing all the concerns raised and to work in partnership with organisations and the community in doing so.

Parliament member Marie Sukers requested the visit by minister Lindiwe Zulu.
National Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu

Guardian of the National Treasure founder Ralph Bouwers described the visit by the department as the start of a different approach.

“Over the past three decades nothing has really happened to bring about change in Lavender Hill. Before we weren’t getting the support, now there is some light and promises have been made. They have heard our cries and now we have to build our communities collectively.”

Mr Nicholson also felt positive about the meeting: “I think our pain was felt. Other ministers came and went but I think there will be a good outcome from this. We will hold them accountable but I am positive that she (Ms Zulu) and the department will bring about change.”