‘Too many people have lost their lives’

Brewd Cooper from the Coot Block in Rocklands, says residents must take back their streets.

Gangsterism was on top of the agenda at the Mitchell’s Plain United Residents’ Association (MURA) meeting at the Petra Life Centre in Rocklands last week.

In light of the increased gang violence in Rocklands, the organisation and residents felt the need to address the issue with safety structures at the meeting on Tuesday September 5, which was attended by members from the Mitchell’s Plain police station and the City of Cape Town’s law enforcement unit.

Norman Jantjes, the chairman of Mura, and former Mitchell’s Plain director of the National Institute for Crime Prevention and the Reintegration of Offenders (Nicro) and independent Ward 76 councillor (1996 to 2001), said it was important for residents to work with the safety structures to fight crime.

“Over the past few months, gang violence has increased, especially in Rocklands. Too many people have lost their lives; it is time that we come together, voice our concerns but also be proactive,” he said.

Rocklands resident Naeem van Ster said residents should stop complaining and do something about their conditions.

“We know that the gang issue is real in our community and that it affects residents young and old, but, as residents, we can find solutions by coming out of our homes and taking our streets back. For example, parents should take their children to the park, occupy the open spaces and make it smaller for gangs to do their business.

“In Rocklands, residents were crying for a community gym, but when it was installed, people did not use it.

“So what happens now, it becomes a criminal hub,” he said.

Mr Van Ster said that generally the constitution had protected criminals, making fighting crime difficult. Holding up a copy of the constitution, he said: “Crime fighters such as the neighbourhood watches cannot search the criminals, so they stay on our streets and continue dealing in drugs and shooting innocent people,” he said.

He also questioned the law enforcement officials about the “cut-off time” for complaints during the week and weekends.

“We often have complaints about noise pollution, but when we call, the phone just rings,” he said.

Brewd Cooper, from the Coot Block in Rocklands, said if residents were serious about crime, they should take back their streets. “In Coot Street, we said enough is enough. We patrol and are active in our area, so we do not give the gangs an opportunity to do their business. We have seen a difference in our area, and if we could do it, so can you. We also have the support of SAPS. When we have an issue, we report it and arrests are made,” she said.

Shereen Martin Smith, from Rocklands, said children were scared to walk to school, and residents feared for their lives when walking to bus stops to get to work. “Why do we still have drug dealers in our streets?

“Why do we still have people dying in our community? The police know who the drug dealers are, but they are not being arrested and put in jail.

“Gangsterism is real. Sadly, we have to endure it every day of our lives. My child even cries when he hears gunshots because he is scared that he will be shot. How can our children live in fear like this?” she said.

Vanessa Thorne, from Rocklands, said she had a problem with a house shop opposite her home, because schoolchildren hung out there and caused a disturbance.

“When the children come out of school, they hang around outside the shop, smoke, are rude and disrespectful.”

Trevor Petersen said residents were no longer working and growing together, but were instead growing apart. He urged officials to take gang violence issues seriously because “it’s becoming too much”.

Captain Harry Brickles, from Mitchell’s Plain police station, said they were aware of the gang war and robberies in the area. “We are doing the best we can through our operations. But we cannot fight crime without the community because it is impossible to be everywhere. Through our crime prevention operations, we have made arrests for drug dealing and other crimes, and we are now visible in the mornings at the bus stops,” he said.

Captain Brickles said that in order to get rid of the drug dealers and gangs, the community needed to be organised.

“So, how do we organise the community? We do it, street by street and block by block. Get involved in the committees and help us fight crime – the more support we get, the more arrests can be made,” he said.

Mura will be working with the police to set up street and block committees in Rocklands. For more information about Mura, call Mr Jantjes on 083 628 4421.