Cape Town - In a brief break from the competitive frenzy of electioneering, political parties put aside their differences on Wednesday to brainstorm solutions to the gang violence in Manenberg.
The idea, sparked by the ANC, was to get politicians, NGOs, civil society and all spheres of the government together to tackle the issue of gangsterism, at the request of fed-up residents.
Two national ministers, Rob Davies (trade and industry) and Ebrahim Patel (economic development); two deputy ministers, ANC provincial chairman Marius Fransman and Deputy Minister of Human Settlements Zoe Kota-Fredericks, Western Cape justice head Hishaam Mohamed, and DA MECs Dan Plato and Social Development MEC Albert Fritz travelled to the gang-ridden suburb to speak to residents.
Patel said that when he went door to door in Manenberg a week ago, the issues that came up most consistently were crime and the tik problem.
“We can’t live in a society that is this violent.”
While police had an important role to play, problems could not be solved without social cohesion and initiatives that gave young people hope. “Even if every merchant is put in jail, there’s still a big demand for tik, so new merchants will come up,” Patel said.
Fransman referred to calls from some quarters for the army to be brought in to help quell gang violence.
“This thing about the army. It does not work.” Everyone who knew Manenberg knew that the way houses were built meant the army would have problems in the area.
“The army is trained to shoot, nothing else. If that happens and somebody shoots and they retaliate, children and other people will die in the crossfire.”
Fransman said playing the blame game would not help.
“Blaming Community Safety MEC Dan Plato is also not going to help - it is about creating a united front.”
Fritz said his department would provide practical interventions, including opportunities for the youth. “We don’t have the luxury of pointing fingers at this point - people are dying, our young boys are dying.”
Davies said while he was not part of the national security cluster he was aware they were developing a project involving priority intervention in areas plagued by gangsterism and drug abuse.
There was an urgent need to transform the socio-economic reality of places like Manenberg.
“Many young people see themselves as having better opportunities by engaging in illegal activities and becoming part of gangs. They see far too few opportunities for themselves.”
Davies said his department believed that getting young people and communities to engage in legal economic activities would make a world of difference.
Plato said he hoped the initiative would bear fruit, adding that his department had been involved in initiatives to combat the violence.
Manenberg police station commissioner Brigadier Andre van Dyk said there had been a drastic decrease in violence due to a law-enforcement initiative to increase police visibility around schools.