Cape Town - The decrepit state of impoverished and crime ridden Bonteheuwel on the Cape Flats has been blamed on gangsters and other criminals taking over the area, hampering much-needed development.
Aside from gangsters using open spaces as battlefields, scrap metal thieves are stripping anything in the area that has resale value, with even playgrounds not being spared.
Bonteheuwel Ratepayers and Tenants Association chairperson Nadia Mayman said: “Parks are broken down to take metals to scrapyards so they can get their next fix. Areas are marked as gang terrain by spray-painting the names of the gang on the walls in the area. Public spaces are used to have their drug parties throughout the night. Families living in abject poverty are paid electricity money and food for the use of their homes as a base for drug activities.”
Mayman said residents have become apathetic and accept crime as a norm, therefore they often turn a blind eye. Too often crime and vandalism are reported and there is no response from law enforcement authorities.
“The poor infrastructure and overcrowding is the reason we sit with the evils of gangsterism and drugs. The abject poverty and lack of opportunities for youth is the cause that feeds the gangs. As long as the government squeezes thousands of people into little spaces the scourge of gangsterism and drugs will thrive,” she said.
One space which had been used by gangsters in one of the blocks has fortunately been restored and transformed into a gym park for children largely because of community involvement and a peace-making initiative, she said.
The area’s ward councillor Angus McKenzie said: “Due to the types of material used in recreational spaces, it becomes instruments that are stolen and resold to fuel these activities. Due to safety concerns of affected staff many of these open spaces in Bonteheuwel have become neglected and left in a state of disrepair. This includes ongoing vandalism.”
McKenzie said gangsters naturally take control of open spaces. The redeveloped parks, eight in total, were again taken ownership of by residents to make sure the spaces were being used for community upliftment.
Bonteheuwel Walking Ladies founder Soraya Salie said it was important for residents to start taking pride in where they live. Many people turned a blind eye and allowed crime to happen, she said.\“We have started to work on our own in the community over the years to avoid the effort of asking politicians. People often still choose to complain, so it’s important for everyone to take their own responsibility,” she said.
McKenzie said: “The Bonteheuwel CBD upgrade that was planned has been delayed slightly due to Covid-19. The first phase, which is perimeter fencing, will start in the next few weeks, followed by landscaping and building refurbishment.”
He said CCTV cameras would be installed with control rooms on site and more safety officers would be recruited.