Ocean View under siege

Onlookers watch as residents from Ocean View block Kommetjie Road during a protest in September 2017. All photos by GroundUp/Ashraf Hendricks

Established by the Apartheid government as a “coloured” area, Ocean View is turning 50 this year but residents of this south peninsula township feel that they have nothing to celebrate.

Ocean View residents feel that they have no reason to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the township as they are under siege by gangsters and that the government has ignored the area.

The small, 1,75 square kilometre township was established in 1968 after people were removed from Simon’s Town and other nearby areas under the Group Areas Act. Contrary to its name, the residents do not have a view of the ocean.

“For many years, Ocean View residents have felt forgotten by government. Many people have been waiting for years for assistance and feel desperate. This has manifested itself in several protests over the past three years,” said Johann Kikillus, Director of the Ocean View Care Centre. The non-profit organisation is a project of Soteria Ministries which addresses social issues of abuse, violence and addiction.

“Ocean View is a place of extremes – there is huge wealth and extreme poverty. I find though the poverty is increasing, especially amongst young mothers. Last year I started noticing severe malnutrition amongst many younger kids and discovered that many children simply do not eat at home at all,” said Johann Kikillus.

Ocean View battles with very high levels of abuse and violence – and that is only what is reported to the police.

“It is sad that this is happening in our community; it used to be the most beautiful community. When I moved here 20 years ago we could have walked home from church or in the middle of the night; it was the safest little place. However, today we don’t even want to go to church or to visit a friend, it is safer to stay in your house,” said Ursula Williams, a home-based care nurse whose son, Dalton Williams, was murdered during the ongoing gang war in the area.

Williams’ son is one of six people who were shot and killed in Ocean View, resulting in protest action wherein community members expressed grievances over the rise in crime and gun violence. They handed over a memorandum of demands, which included improved street lighting, regular road blocks, stop-and-search operations and for police vacancies to be filled.

Ocean View resident Andre Stewart tells protesters to remain calm and hold their ground.

SAPS Western Cape Spokesperson FC Van Wyk confirmed that a memorandum was handed over to the police station “which resulted in a community meeting being held by SAPS management where Metro Police, Law Enforcement and other SAPS agencies committed to assisting Ocean View SAPS with improved police visibility. We are now having integrated operations on an ongoing basis,” he added.

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Police in Ocean View fired stun grenades to disperse the protesters, many of whom were children.

Kikillus who has been operating in the area for 8 years says that he has lost track of the number of murders that have taken place in the flats surrounding the care centre.

“Often these murders take place in broad daylight and are witnessed by young and old alike. This negatively affects a community’s psyche when it continues with no end in sight. I have also noted a spike in stress-related illnesses and it is clear that people are not coping,” he added.

“You always think that things like this happen to other people until you’re confronted with it. I don’t wish it on anyone, not that I wish [these] things on people but I wouldn’t even want my enemies to be murdered like this,” said Ursula Williams as she recounted details of her son’s murder.

Gangsters are at war over drugs and territory and often innocent lives are lost in the process. Williams’ son was robbed and murdered in cold blood on his way to see his mother. His death is not an isolated case and community members are calling on the police to intervene.

“I think everywhere in Ocean View people feel that fear now because you don’t know; you can be standing here and then there’s a shootout right here in front of you. My son was 31 years old and he lived here from the age of seven and grew up with all the other boys living here. He attended school here and was an introvert,” said Williams.

“It’s difficult for mothers –  I raised my children alone; their father died 20 years ago. You put everything into raising your child for someone to come and take their life like it’s nothing. I can only pray for these people, for the youth [as well] because they are also being used and abused by gangsters.”

She said that she’s forgiven the perpetrators because “they are people who also find themselves in a place they don’t want to be.”

Kikillus feels that “a new and completely different approach” needs to be taken to combat gang violence because the current system doesn’t work.

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“It has failed the community over the past two decades. As a result, all action is reactive – this means that the community relies only on policing to solve the problem. But gangsterism is more complex and preventative measures need to be put in place,” he added.

“I feel that the social development and education departments need a complete overhaul as they are in no way addressing the gang problem – sometimes just exacerbating it. ‘Naughty kids’ are suspended from school and sent home for two weeks. Social workers do not follow up properly on that and these kids become a target for gangs,” he said.

A resident throws oil onto an Ocean View road sign during a protest against inadequate policing.

Community members agreed that they also need more recreational activities to provide children with an alternative to crime.

“The way I see it we can fight crime by doing sports and keeping our youth active so that they don’t have to turn to something else such as standing on a corner because that’s how they get groomed by the wrong people, a drug dealer says keep this gun for me etc,” said Miles Delong, who runs a street ball and netball club at the 7 Stars flats.

“We need more active policing including patrolling and searches. Gangsters have walked passed my house in broad daylight with their guns in their hands. I had to keep my children at home until 08:15 which resulted in them being late for class because they were shooting outside,” said a 52-year-old woman who asked to remain unnamed for fear of gang retaliation. “We’re across the road from the school but my children have to run home after school to be safe or not go to school at all. They’re robbing children of their education.”

“Aside from the integrated operations and increased visibility, we are searching premises, stopping and searching suspicious persons and having road blocks to combat crime and it is having a large amount of success. Six firearms were recovered during the month of July alone,” stated Captain FC Van Wyk.

To date, the police have made two arrests for last month’s murders. The rest of the murders are still under investigation. According to a media statement, a firearm with five rounds of live ammunition was recovered. A suspect is expected to appear in court on Tuesday.

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