Dubbed #BishopLavisShutDown, residents of Bishop Lavis and surrounding townships came out against gang violence, crime and drugs in the area.
Residents of Bishop Lavis, Nooitgedatcht and Valhalla Park in Cape Town came out in numbers in the early hours of Wednesday morning to protest against gang violence, drugs and crime that has been affecting the townships. Led by Bishop Lavis Action Committee (BLAC), about 300 residents including from neighbouring Kalksteenfontein braved the cold weather to make their voices heard. “As the organising team we have been up since 2:30 this morning organising the protest,” said BLAC’s president Rodney Zeeberg. “The protest is about registering our dissatisfaction and discontent at the level of violence and crime that has engulfed our communities. We are sick and tired of living in fear and young people dying and young people not having a future. We want to bring an end to it from both the side of the state and that of gangsters and druglords.”
The crime statistics released yesterday by the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, reveal that Bishop Lavis police station is in the top 30 police stations for reported murders, attempted murders, common assault and robbery, contact related crimes and malicious damage to property.
According to the statistics, the police station ranked number 21 with 98 murders from March 2017 to March 2018, one more murder than the previous year. Stacy Granger is one of the people who was murdered last year. The 12-year old Grade 7 learner was shot in the crossfire between rival gangs. “She wanted to become a flight attendant and I would have made sure that dream of hers came true,” said Stacy’s mother, Charmaine Granger. She related the story of her daughter’s death: “It was around 8:45 in January 2016 that I was called to the scene outside a game shop where Stacy was having a conversation with her friend and there were gangs that were shooting at each other. She had a bullet wound on her head but we were told that the bullet that killed her is the one to her back. It pierced through her heart,” said Granger. “We opened a case and my husband and I were working with the police giving them all the information we had. Even though we knew who was involved and we told the cops, the case was dismissed due to lack of evidence,” said the mother of four.
“Stacy’s little brother still has sleepless nights because of what happened. Our children cannot even play outside. I’m still hurting,” she said.
A 33-year old resident of Bishop Lavis who wanted to remain anonymous told Elitsha that the Bishop Lavis police are on the payroll of druglords and gangsters. “Police do go and raid the drug dens but they always come up with nothing. It’s clear that they get tipped off about the raids and hide the drugs,” she said.
Her views were echoed by another community member who also wanted to remain anonymous. “The police are useless and they are corrupt. They are paid by the merchants,” he said. ” I have three children and I want them to grow up in an environment free of drugs and gangs,” he said.
Another resident, Barbara Niewoudt, who is part of the school governing body at John Ramsay High in Bishop Lavis related a story of how a gang jumped over the school fence but was unlucky because the police were at the school. The police caught one member and upon searching him found a small pot with “buttons inside”. “Even kids at the school threaten me all the time and tell us that we can’t do anything because they are [protected by] gangsters outside of school,” she said.
The protest was marked by a heavy police presence with a water cannon on standby, 2 Inyalas, police vans and a police truck. “The irony of having heavy police presence as a result of our protest boggles me. It goes to show how the police and the government have blatant disregard for the poor,” said Rodney Zeeberg. Members of City of Cape Town Police unit were also deployed.
“The heavy police presence here shows how the police are used against the poor. Yesterday, I was dealing with a case of domestic violence in Bonteheuwel and I was told that there is no van. How is closing the road for a few hours more dangerous or needing more police and resources than fighting gangsterism?” asked Andre Adams from the South African Trade Union Federation.
Among a list of fourteen demands the community wants more visible policing at schools, use of surveillance cameras to prevent crime, all gang related cases to be escalated to the Cape Town High Court, a drug rehabilitation centre for Bishop Lavis, proper streetlights and building of decent rental housing.
The memorandum was accepted by Brigadier Christopher Jones of Bishop Lavis police station on behalf of Provincial Commissioner, Khombinkosi Jula.