As Mitchell’s Plain celebrates its 40th anniversary, former finance minister and minster in the presidency, Trevor Manuel, has urged residents to commit themselves to joining forces to develop and enforce transformation strategies that will enable the people of Mitchell’s Plain to rise even higher when the area marks its 50th anniversary.
Mr Manuel has close ties with Mitchell’s Plain, having been deployed by the ANC to its Mitchell’s Plain Constituency Office and having also founded the Mitchell’s Plain Bursary and Role Model Trust in 2010.
He is currently Chancellor at Cape Peninsula University of Technology.
Reflecting on the early years, he said in the 1970s Mitchell’s Plain had been a place of refuge, and an area where many people of colour became homeowners for the first time.
But, he added,“in the 80s and 90s Mitchell’s Plain transformed to an area infected by gang-related violence and drugs,” noting that around that time, the most commonly used drug had been mandrax, known on the streets as “buttons”. Smoked with dagga in a bottleneck, this drug made users ”slow and geroek”.
More recently, drugs like tik and unga have become widely used, making its users aggressive and emotional.
“It is by this order that our lovely once peaceful community become known all over the world as one of the ‘hot spots’ for gang violence and drugs within the borders of the Cape Flats,” he said.
And while Mitchell’s Plain faces a range of challenges in terms of crime, he has great hope for residents and the area, Mr Manuel added.
“Break-ins, robberies and deaths are all caused by our very own people. The struggle is real as rival gangs fight for turf, not holding back but willing to sacrifice their lives in the fight for a client.
“This is what the media and people think of Mitchell’s Plain. Our area has been discriminated against by actions of the minority and this leads to affecting the majority. But if you’re from Mitchell’s Plain, you will understand that the challenges we face are set to make us stronger,” he said.
Turning his focus to the youth, he said, young people have the choice to either be recruited by gangs or pursue a career.
“Gangs only manage to recruit five percent of our youths. This five percent eventually end up in jail or sadly lose their lives. But we as a community have never failed because we have aligned projects that assist youngsters who have been affected by some sort of violence,” he said.
This interest in the welfare of the youth is borne out in Mr Manuel’s involvement in the Mitchell’s Plain Bursary and Role Model Trust which focuses on providing financial assistance to pupils who want to further their education.
There are about 20 high schools in Mitchell’s Plain which are involved with the Trust, which is sponsored by Mr Manuel.
“This platform is set to revolutionise and transform our area by providing solutions to our youth and empowering them to make a difference in the near future. I believe it’s projects of this nature that can become most effective if pupils who succeed through the programme, give back to it eventually when they find employment,” he said.
Asked about the community and civic involvement of Mitchell’s Plain residents, Mr Manuel put the spotlight on the area’s neighbourhood watch groups.
“Our very own people are offering up their time and sacrificing their lives to ensure that our streets remain safe at all times, working together with Mitchell’s Plain SAPS to fight crime.
“Their mission is to allow us to live in peace and tranquillity but this vision will only be realised if (they have) the support of the community and thus far they have had a lot of support. I urge members of the community to get involved. It’s our responsibility,” he said.
Turning to the number of successful professionals and talented artists to have emerged from Mitchell’s Plain, Mr Manuel noted: “Singers, soccer players, doctors lawyers, DJs and rappers. Despite the negative uproar of violence they still persevered.”
He said local religious groups have mobilised events and structures to reach out to the less fortunate areas to uplift and educate.
Mr Manuel is calling on those who have personal and professional success, to plough back into the community which helped them to shape who they are today.
Mr Manuel added that it is the responsibility of every resident to transform the area from a township to a upmarket urban area.
“The MyCiTi bus service built their nice glass station to uplift the image of our area.
“It’s our responsibility to transform our area from a township to a upmarket urban area. We can do it if we help one another and believe that each one’s contributions is important and valuable.
“Let’s rise and take back what rightfully belongs to us. I have witnessed people change. I have witnessed people lose their lives at an early age, hence I have devoted my life to the struggle to retain a positive environment and a healthy lifestyle for the less fortunate. Let’s join hands now so that we know we impact those around us to make a difference,” urged Mr Manuel.