Lotus River residents desperate for an end to shootings

Community leaders who led the protest against violence are, from left, Shamila Hattas, Sandra Green, Abe Braaf, Marie Manasse and Levena James.
Residents say women and children are being held “prisoner” in the ongoing violence in Lotus River.
Five bullet holes in a wall are a reminder of a recent shooting spree in Lotus River.
A resident raised her placard saying “stop the violence”.

Instead of celebrating Women’s Month, mothers, grandmothers and young children took to the streets to stand up for their rights, in a peaceful protest. Their aim was to highlight that they are “living in fear” as gang violence in the area increases.

About 30 residents of Lotus River and supporting organisations raised their placards along Strandfontein Road, on Saturday August 7, to protest against “the killing of children and innocent people by gangsters”.

Marie Manasse, a senior citizen and tenant of Pearl Court where the shooting took place, around 1.15am on Saturday July 31, said this was the start of an ongoing protest.

“We went through a hell of an experience as gun violence had become the norm. My family and so many other families woke up Saturday at 1.15am to gunshots.”

She said later that day they discovered five bullet holes in the wall of her block of flats. “I was waking up in the middle of the night to my granddaughter screaming ‘Ma please pray’ because she is traumatised and scared.”

Ms Manasse said they were planning to link up with other communities such as Lavender Hill, Ottery and Hanover Park to jointly address the issue as “we need assistance as officials are failing us badly.”

Grassy Park SAPS, however, could not confirm the shooting as it had not been reported.

“People should report and give us details and statements,” said Captain Wynita Kleinsmith, spokesperson for Grassy Park SAPS.

A resident, who asked not to be named in the paper, claimed that the shots had been targeted at a flat in Pearl Court where “illegal tenants were harbouring gangsters”and that ward councillor Patricia Van Der Ross, had been informed.

Ms Van Der Ross confirmed this, adding that Law Enforcement had gone to inspect the flat.

If there is proof of illegal occupation, she said, “an eviction process will follow.”

Ms Van Der Ross said she had been notified about the shooting at the flat but did not have further details. “People should give details, such as when and what time it happened, so that I can notify SAPS.”

Ms Van Der Ross said she was aware of the protest and concerned about residents “losing lives on a daily basis.”

Khoisan cultural commissioner Sandra Green, from Nama Royal House, in Lotus River, who initiated the protest after hearing about the residents’ concerns, said: “We had enough of our children getting killed and we are also worried about how gangsters get guns.”

Ms Green said her duty as commissioner had been to help people where she could and that the protest had been initiated to raise awareness about the violence, “to stop the killing of our youth and to highlight that our seniors are living in fear”.

“We are living like prisoners in our own homes. We have our doors locked, we are fenced in while gang violence is increasing.”

Ms Green said youth as young as 13, get sucked into gangsterism. “When I asked a young person where he saw himself in five years, he said he wanted to be like the merchant.”

She said they are trying to educate children that there are alternatives to being a gangster.

Ms Green, who has been living in Lotus River for more than 50 years, said they should be celebrating Women’s Month, “but our women are crying for our children, because what’s happening to them is scary”.

Queen Rebecca Como, of Nama Royal House, said she was also concerned about the safety of the children and elderly.

“Our plea goes out to the gang leaders to cease the fire because our children are already struggling to study, during this time of the pandemic, now being distracted by gunshots as well.

“The children can’t move around like they should, so we are asking them to stop the killing and gang violence, so that we can have a better life.”