Gangs and drugs top agenda

Gangsterism and substance abuse were top of the agenda for Mitchell’s Plain residents at a service delivery workshop at Beacon Valley community centre on Thursday June 8.

The meeting was hosted by Ward 79 councillor Solomon Philander. His ward includes Beacon Valley, Eastridge, parts of Portland and the Town Centre.

The workshop was facilitated by NGO, Safeline Child Abuse Treatment and Prevention Centre in Beacon Valley. At the event were members of the street and block committees, the walking bus initiative and aftercare programmes.

“Imagine living in an area where you are surrounded by different gangs. They will shoot at any time, endangering the lives of young and old. That is not the life people should live – a life of fear,” says Jennifer Sirmonpong, from Eastridge.

Ms Sirmonpong said there was a huge gang problem in her area where there were four different gangs shooting indiscriminately and peddling drugs freely.

“It is worrying that gang groupings are becoming bigger in our area. In Eastridge you will find gangs such as the Rich gang, the Dixie Boys and Ghettos. The sad reality is that there are more and more youngsters, including young girls under the age of 16, who are part of these gangs,” she said.

Ms Sirmonpong said: “These youngsters are running guns, dealing in drugs and are robbing residents. This issue needs to be addressed. It is already bad, it can get even worse,” she warned.

Ms Sirmonpong said she had tried to be proactive and had joined various WhatsApp groups to report and keep updated on crime in the area. “I cannot just accept the circumstances, so I will call the police and take action. I’d like to encourage other residents to do the same,” she said.

Noting the concerns of the community, Mr Philander said the aim of the workshop was to listen to residents, find out what their challenges were and address the issues. “Drug abuse, gangsterism and abuse are breaking our communities down, so we need to find solutions to this problem and we can do this through tailor-made interventions,” he said.

Community worker Carol Mentor said in Eastridge and Beacon Valley there was a problem with children who were not attending school. “The Department of Social Development has failed us, because they (pupils) are supposed to be in school, not at home or on the streets.

“Recently we had a job-seekers survey in the Beacon Valley area, and we found that at almost every second house there is someone on drugs. So, we are urging government departments to take action, invest in programmes and give people employment opportunities,” she said.

Another Eastridge resident, Magdalene Miller, said drugs were not only an issue in the community but at school and in the household. “Yes, we know that young people are experimenting with drugs, but the sad part is that the parents themselves are doing drugs too. So, what example are our adults to their children? In a community like this, children need positive role models, but sadly this is not happening,” she said.

Tina McDonald from the Jukskei Street committee and walking bus committee, said young people often gambled and engaged in illegal activities. “I do not allow illegal activity in front of my house. If I see people grouping on the corner, I confront them. I let them know that it is my property and that I want them to go some place else.

“As residents we need to take back our streets. We need to be firm and take action,” she said.

Rochelle Philander, director of Safeline, said it was important to have a dialogue with the community. “These are worrying issues and should be addressed holistically and will need all stakeholders on board. Most importantly, the community must take a stand, take back their streets and be active,” she said.

Mr Philander said they would collate the information then meet with the responsible public service or non-profit organisation to inform them of the challenges identified.

“Together we will give feedback on the plan for intervention. Should we need to implement campaigns going forward the responsible public service will guide us on this. The local district office that was present and Safeline will assist the ward councillor in taking responses back to the community,” he said.

Mr Philander said they were planning a session in July to give feedback on progress. “The beauty is that the participants are street committees; it is easy to establish a great partnership as these are active community members.

“We have a register with updated contact information and we will work along side the community members to make progress possible on the issues identified. We appreciate the work done by the community – it is important to form strong partnership to make life easier for people living in Ward 79,” he said.

At the event, Mr Philander handed over safety jackets to members of the street committee and other safety structures.

Mr Philander can be contacted at 021 444 5814, 083 690 7772 or email Solomon.Philander@capetown.gov.za The Safeline Child Abuse Treatment and Prevention Centre can be contact at 021 638 4149.