Fifty bodies in 38 weeks
Cape Town - Lee-roy du Preez of Wesbank on the Cape Flats has not been to school for months. In March, the 15-year-old saw his brother Alfred killed and now there is a bounty on his head.
“The gangsters jump over the fence at break time. I’ve seen them stab and shoot at kids in broad daylight,” says Chrisadia Jansen, a matric pupil at Wesbank High School.
Walking home with his mother from the shop a month after Alfred’s death, a gunman fired at Lee-Roy, but missed.
Lee-Roy, his mother Felicia du Preez and the rest of the family live on one of the most dangerous stretches of the Cape Flats. On and around the street where she lives, Felicia points out the spots on the pavement where dead bodies have lain in recent months.
She points out the corner where her son Alfred fell. She starts crying when asked how old he was.
“It was the day before his 21st birthday,” whispers a friend.
According to Ricardo le Roux, of the Wesbank Community Forum, more than 50 people have died in gang violence this year in a few blocks next to the Main Road.
These blocks are some of the most fiercely defended gangs turfs on the Flats. The boundaries between 28s-affiliated gangs and the 26s are stark, and now that youngsters are on holiday the gangs are recruiting.
Alfred was a 26s member. Rival turf begins less than a five-minute walk from his house. Here, a group of 28s are walking home, one with a five-litre box of wine under his arm.
“It’s holiday, what else are we supposed to do?” asks Ernest Chilana, a 19-year-old Grade 10 pupil. He is the oldest, the rest are either in school or have dropped out. “We drink, we party with the girls and then we go to sleep,” he says.
Main Road, with children kicking deflated soccer balls, has a holiday air about it. “But don’t be fooled. This war is going on, even here where you stand now,” says Chilana’s friend, 18-year-old Wesley Ydesu, as he taps his cheek, signifying vigilance.
On Sunday, Ydesu’s younger brother narrowly escaped three shots fired at him from a moving car on the same street.
For Nomsa Gxidolo, a single mother of three children aged 10, eight and seven, the thought of them spending their holiday playing cricket or soccer in the street while she is at work, is too much. She drops them at a crèche in the morning and picks them up mid-afternoon.
“Even in our houses we fear for our lives because there are so many gunshots at night,” she says.
“I am looking hard… my children cannot stay here anymore. I am looking hard for a boarding school. They need to be sent away.”