Religious leaders and residents took to the streets of Lotus River on Saturday September 16 in a march aimed at ending violence and keeping the peace.
The leaders aimed to eradicate the stigma that Lotus River is a “crime statistic” and said they will not allow a “minority of criminals to keep them hostage”.
Captain Wynita Kleinsmith, spokesperson of Grassy Park Police, said about 50 people attended the march. “It was peaceful and Public order public safety (POPS), Metro Plus, Grassy Park SAPS, were in attendance,” she said.
The latest spate of criminal offences included fatal murders in August.
Pastor Kevin Frans, spokesperson of the event, said shootings mainly occur at night during load shedding and it is difficult to identify whether they are gang related or not. “Shootings happening during the night under the cover of darkness. We cannot see who it is.”
Melvin Jonkers, chairperson of the Grassy Park community police forum (CPF), said he had heard about the peace march, but he was out of town.
However, he said the CPF supports the community’s stance for peaceful change.
“Innocent people are getting killed and our church and community are showing through the march what our community is going through. We are in a state of decay and socially and morally it is getting worse by the day.”
Mr Jonkers confirmed there had been fatal shootings in August. “There were a few fatalities where two people died in separate incidents on the corner of Klip Road and Buck Road.”
He said two people were also killed at the Lotus River flats opposite the multi-purpose centre at a different time. “These shootings were gang related.”
Mr Jonkers said the community had a public meeting on Wednesday September 13 to allow the relevant role players including the neighbourhood watches, the residents, SAPS and the CPF, to discuss problems prevalent in the neighbourhood.
Pastor Frans said the dynamics of the Lotus River area has changed. “A lotus is a flower with a nice fragrance and there used to be a lot of good coming from Lotus River. We are concerned about people who have been living here for over 30 years. I have been here 38 years and this is a time when things are spiralling out of control.”
He said the peace march did not attract many people due to the rain but there were, “many supporters, giving us positive feedback from their homes as they gave hand signs to say that they also want peace.”
Pastor Frans said the walk “was a good start”.
“If we do it again we can take something home from the walk and do it better next time and this was not a confrontational march.”
He said the religious group and community will meet to discuss a way forward.
“We are planning to get a summer or Christmas gathering to get all involved, to have a fun day with music. The Lotus River community should rally around that violence is only one part of Lotus River but we need to be proud of the area and not just see it as a crime statistic.”
Some of the slogans on the placards at the peace walk, said: “Stop the violence” and “Make Lotus River a peaceful place”.
Pastor Frans said many residents have moved out of Lotus River because of the crime situation but “we need to stick together.”
Pastor Frans said the police have not been stepping up to combat crime but thanked them for their presence at the march. “We had a good response when we applied for a marching permit and they sent enough personnel out to protect us.”
Southern Mail contacted Colonel Dawood Laing, of Grassy Park Police, but he did not respond at the time of print.