Cape Town - Cape Town is a ticking timebomb, with violent crime leading to a “grotesquely abnormal” situation which will only get worse if urgent action is not taken, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has warned.
In a hard-hitting essay published in Weekend Argus on Saturday, Tutu and his daughter, the Reverend Mpho Tutu, the executive director of the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, lament the almost daily murder of children in Cape Town and call on Capetonians from all walks of life to work together to stop the violence.
“Wherever one is in the world, the avoidable death of a child is considered a disgrace; the rape of a child is considered an abomination. Yet in Cape Town, a world-class city voted by New York Times readers as among the top travel destinations on Earth, it’s impossible to tell how many children have been brutally violated and/or killed over any given period because nobody appears to keep such records,” they say, citing the death this week of nine-year-old Lihle Hlanjwa, who was raped, set alight and abandoned next to a freeway in January, and the many children, including 12-year-old Jucinta Matroos, who have been killed or wounded in gang crossfire this year, as evidence of the extreme levels of violence in the city.
“The reality for citizens across broad swathes of the Cape Flats and the surrounding region is that 20 years into South Africa’s democracy they have yet to receive a freedom dividend. They have yet to be freed of the yoke of oppression wrought by gangsters and sex fiends and other criminals. Most of these communities remain as fundamentally dysfunctional as they were when they were first thrown together as racial enclaves in the 1960s and 1970s.”
The Tutus say the failure of authorities to curb gangsterism has meant it has spread from coloured to neighbouring African communities, with potentially dire consequences.
“Each year, the police release crime statistics showing that the Western Cape is the most violent place in the country, with the highest proportion of murders and rapes,” they write. “It’s almost as if this is normal service. But it is grotesquely abnormal, and the sweet lament of our young heavenly choir is proof of that.
“It is easy to blame others for our malaise. All are guilty. We blame the government, and the various levels of government blame each other. We blame the police, we blame teachers, we blame poverty, we blame apartheid and we tend not to take any responsibility ourselves.”
Urging Capetonians to reach out across barriers and their own differences, much like the United Democratic Front (UDF) did when confronting apartheid, the Tutus say: “What occurs in Manenberg or Khayelitsha does not only affect the people of Manenberg and Khayelitsha. It affects each and all of us. Rape, brutality, bullying and fear undermine schools, they place a severe financial burden on state hospitals, they require police prioritisation in one area to the detriment of policing in other areas.”