A group of Cape Town activists are calling on Capetonians to show their support for the victims of violent crimes at district courts by joining placard demonstrations and signing petitions.
After nearly five years of taking to the streets and raising their concerns about the increase in violent crimes against women and children, volunteers from the Callas Foundation in Athlone say they are expanding their footprint.
Each week the group of 50 concerned parents, under the leadership of Caroline Peters, are seen gathering outside various courts wearing bright orange T-shirts and carrying posters as they protest against the release of alleged rapists and killers.
“We started in 2018 and it became an integral part of our outreach on the Cape Flats.
“Over the years there have been so many cases at so many courts that we cannot even count. We recruit volunteers to be a source of comfort and guidance for victims of violent crimes along with their families.”
The group, who work closely with the Women’s Legal Centre and the Manenberg Gender-Based Violence Help Desk, say families are often overwhelmed when arriving at court for the first time.
“For many people the first time they enter a Magistrate’s Court is the day their child gets raped or killed or hurt in some way. Arriving at court is daunting when you don’t understand the procedures or understand the terminology used by the legal representatives.
“Our volunteers are trained not only in how to show support but in court proceedings and how to explain this to and prepare victims and their families. The biggest element is just being present with a poster.
“If you look at the attrition rate, especially for GBV-related matters, you will see withdrawals of cases because people feel afraid and alone. This, for us, is about empowerment and showing the courts that communities have had enough.”
In October the foundation helped find an alleged rapist who attacked an autistic woman in a local park.
At the time, the 28-year-old woman, who may not be named, explained that her attacker pretended to be disabled by sitting in his friend’s wheelchair and pounced on her as she passed him in Nantes Park.
The woman was referred to Peters and her team, who worked alongside Manenberg cops who later arrested Marcellino Hendricks.
“He came back to Wynberg Magistrate’s Court this week and we made sure to fill the public gallery. We made sure he saw us wearing our orange T-shirts as we handed in our petition calling for his bail to be denied. He immediately abandoned his bail application and the case was postponed to January 30.
“Petitions are also very important and we assist many communities in writing one for them and liaising with prosecutors to ensure it is included in the court documents.
“What we need is people who can come forward and be willing to be trained and help us cover more courts.”
If you would like to volunteer, call the foundation on 072 539 5113.