Cape Town - My children fell asleep to the sound of gunfire again the other night.
One of them remembered the lie I told them the last few times it happened and asked if it was people setting off firecrackers again.
While I live in a relatively safe neighbourhood, we could hear the volley of shots from the next suburb and I wondered how so much more distressed those people and children close to the gunfire must be.
I’m writing this letter to you, Mr President, because the crime statistics released a few weeks ago are more than just stats to us citizens; to many of us, it is a daily reality; a reality that I am not sure you fully appreciated.
Please allow me to address you as a father for a moment; a man who cares for his family and wants only what’s best for them.
Sir, how far would you go to keep your children safe?
If you knew there was even the remotest chance that your beautiful daughters Kiki and Mashudu may get attacked and raped while innocently walking around the UCT campus tonight, would you drop whatever you’re doing and spring into action to keep them safe?
If you knew that your eldest daughter Tulisa’s life was in danger every time she went to work, would you do whatever it takes to ensure her safety?
If you knew there was a chance that mistaken identity, gang initiation or a stray bullet could take your son Tumelo from you every time he went out for a bit of fun with his friends, would you move heaven and earth to make sure he returns to you alive and well; or would you let him take his chances?
As your son Andile prepares to start a new chapter of his life with his lovely fiancé Bridget, I wonder how far you would go to ensure they are kept out of harm’s way.
If you suspect their new marital home may be invaded in the middle of the night; Andile assaulted, Bridget violated and them both bludgeoned to death, would you do whatever was possible for you as a father to prevent it from happening?
Soon I hope this union blesses you with your first grandchildren.
May I ask how far you would go to make sure they are safe from harm?
If you knew that your grandchildren may get shot while innocently playing with their toys in your front garden, would you stand guard to protect them?
Mr President, if you knew the possibility existed that - while you were sitting around the dinner table tonight, enjoying the fellowship of your beautiful family - bullets may come flying through your window and rip some of your loved ones from you, would you do something to prevent it from happening?
As a smart man admired by many, I don’t mean to insult your intelligence with rhetorical questions.
But these are not rhetorical questions for many fathers like me.
The difference is, we are not able to act in the way that you can.
We can act only as fathers, with limited resources and definite risk to life and limb.
You, sir, can act as a father AND as the President of the Republic.
As you read the questions above and unconsciously mouthed the obvious answers to yourself, I would like you to consider the millions of fathers in the country and on the Cape Flats who are trying and failing to perform even the most basic forms of protection for their families.
There is a humanitarian crisis and collective trauma that exists on the Cape Flats.
But there’s also a sense of defeatism.
So much so that recently I could hear someone on a video making light of the situation, while the lifeless body of yet another gangster lay sprawled in the background.
So common is this sight that the man in the video could laugh about it.
Did you know, sir, that a man in a motorcycle helmet walked into a clinic recently and killed a gangster, while he was sitting next to his partner, with their baby on her lap?
The media (myself included) use words like “brazen” and “execution-style” when referring to these stories.
But these words have become hollow and meaningless, simply because they get used every other day about yet another shooting.
It is a serious abnormal situation, but there are so many killings now that it has been normalised and we the media can’t keep track anymore.
Your children have grown up beautifully, Mr President, and they are doing so well for themselves. It must really make you even prouder as their dad.
There’s such a lot of awesome, raw talent that’s being squandered on the Cape Flats because of gangsterism.
Writers, scientists, artists, sports stars, politicians, philanthropists and entrepreneurs are all being denied their rightful destiny as a result.
These are all people who will make this country a great one if given the chance to walk in peace.
I firmly believe that we would willingly put up with all our other social challenges, if only we could do so in relative safety.
Much has been tried over the years, and every now and again things quieten down for a bit. Foreign gang experts have come; the army has been here; residents are protesting; neighbourhood watches are forming and politicians are talking.
But the problem still persists and seems to be getting worse.
We now have children as young as 11 running around with guns.
People are being shot in broad daylight while they’re filling up with petrol.
Mr President, I don’t want to prescribe to you what exactly you should do.
I’m not sure I know what the solution is.
But I do want to suggest you do whatever it is you would’ve done if this was your neighbourhood.
If this was the suburb in which your kids were growing up.
Do those things!
You have the power of the highest office in the land behind you.
You are highly respected in business circles and, consequently, you can access resources like none of your predecessors.
With the power of the president, do what any father would do to protect his children.
But please, don’t do nothing!
* Bobby Brown is a radio personality and columnist for the Daily Voice.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.