Please stop defacing our church, congregation says

UNATHI OBOSE

Members of Eastridge United Presbyterian Church in Eastridge are appealing to the community in the area to desist from discarding rubbish on the church premises and writing on their walls.

The call comes after numerous attempts by church members to stop the defacing of the church fell on deaf ears. The church has had to fork out more than R20 000 since last year to repair damages, since last year.

“We are asking the community to stop vandalising and throwing rubbish onto our church premises and writing on our walls. We believe that the community knows about the perpetrators but they are scared to come out and report them to us,” said church member Jacques Vorster.

He described the church as a holy place and urged people to respect it.

“It’s been more than 15 years we’ve been living like this and now it is getting out of hand. Children are throwing stones on the roof and they are damaging it. Even our insurance (company) doesn’t want to cover us anymore,” he said. “It’s sad because it costs us a lot. We have to pay someone to clean, to do repairs and hire trucks to remove rubble,” he said.

Mr Vorster 30 said they suspect that some of the illegal activities are also gang-related. “There is a lot of violence between rival gang here. Sometimes they hide their drugs on our church grounds and write their gang signs on our doors and walls. Some of the signs we have painted over,” he said.

He said they report the perpetrators to the community leaders and law enforcement, hoping that there will be change but it still continues. “We informed our ward councillor, Solomon Philander, the police and law enforcement. The councillor pledged to raise awareness and distribute pamphlets to community members. And also the police are visible because they come every day,” he said. However, Mr Vorster said incidents happen at night when there are no people around. “The City of Cape Town issued a summons a few months ago to clean our property, which we did. But after a few days we saw a pile of rubbish discarded on our plot again,” said Mr Vorster.

Church caretaker Clive Kennedy said most incidents are happening at night. “I start working at eight in the morning till one in the afternoon. I clean every day, but when I come back the following day, I find rubbish thrown over the wall. All our church doors and walls are painted with these gang signs,” he said.

Mr Kennedy said he puts up sign boards during the day warning people not to litter but takes them down when he leaves because they (criminals) steal them. “It still doesn’t help because when I leave in the afternoon they (criminals) jump over the wall and smoke inside the church premises,” said Mr Kennedy.

Mr Vorster said they were contemplating installing an electric fence but changed their minds because they fear it will be stolen too. He said they have about 150 members in the church and have 44 branches in the provinces. “Other branches are scared to visit us because of the violence in our community. Whatever we are doing we must do it during the day because we don’t know what might happen at night and we must ensure that we tighten up our security to look after the parking cars. Even the number of youth in the church is decreasing because of these gang fights in the community. We don’t have the freedom to do what we like in our church because of these illegal activities that are hampering us to preach the word of God,” he said.

He said the church plays a pivotal role in the development of the community. “We have a variety of projects that we are doing for the community. We have a soup kitchen from Monday to Friday and a meal once a month. Also we have Project Share where we distribute bread to the community,” Mr Vorster said.

Mr Philander acknowledged that he received a report from the secretary of the church about dumping and vandalism at the church. “I will be distributing pamphlets to the community to inform them that if they know who the perpetrators are they must report them, as well as the process on how to report them,” said Mr Philander.

He said vandalism is a general problem in the area and urged residents to take a stand against dumping and vandalism and report the offenders. “Let us work together with the church to address the social ills in the community and not against them,” he urged.