As South Africa prepared to observe At the start of the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign, the Ocean View community rose to their feet in a sign of unity, and marched for peace.
The community, together with SAPS members and the community police forum, walked from the police station to St Claire of Assisi.
There, in the yellow building, against blue skies on Saturday November 26, they prayed together; for the social ills in their community to cease. And they acknowledged those who had lost their lives in the crossfire of this ongoing battle.
A grandmother, who cannot be named to protect her from repercussionswhose name is being withheld for fear of reprisals, spoke frankly about what it means, day to day, to live in the area. “It is right in your face. The drugs, the violence. We all know people who have been killed. This isn’t games. They kill you, here.”
She says one of her family members was raped at the age of seven. The sweet-faced boy is now a prime target for gangs, who covet the younger generation.
“They want drug runners – and the younger the better. But these are our children, and our grandchildren. We fight for them every day. We are losing the fight. But we can’t give up. Who else do they have? And it’s not just drugs. It is the violence that comes with the drugs, that is what we have to fight, the lifestyle of crime,” she said.
She says her own daughter is addicted to drugs. “We raised her right, but sometimes even when you do, it happens anyway. She is such a pretty girl, and so talented. But when you have nothing, and the wrong people give you nice things, then that opens the door, and the next thing… you are trapped, and then you have the addiction, not those people who got you into it in the first place,” she said.
Ocean View station commander, Lieutenant Colonel Errol Merkeur said that SAPS felt it was important to march with the community to show their support and add their voice to the call for peace in the hard-hit community. Police and CPF members also joined the march. “We want to use the chance to acknowledge the pain that the family members feel when they lose their family and loved ones, to crime,” said Lieutenant Colonel Merkeur
One of the marchers acknowledged the police, saying they really did try. “They do respond, but these gangsters have lookouts. Look, we all know where the drugs are being sold – wholesale – but they have people positioned up there and they can mos see anyone who is coming, so if it’s a car or a person they don’t know, they just disappear,” she said.
“And they use our kids – you think your child is in school and then you hear from someone else that they were skipping classes. You get them home and you yell at them, then you turn to cook the supper and they are gone again. Sometimes, young as they are, they only come home after night. It is just wrong, man.”
Church warden Conrad Simon was there to open the doors. He said the march was necessary and that the community shows strength by standing together.
Another lay minister at the church, Daphne Vigis, said these marches were a way of showing the children and the vulnerable in the community that there was still hope, that there were still people who stood for a better value system.
“My grandchildren don’t even play outside. They know what can happen. The only sunshine they get, is when they are at school,” she says.
Ms Vigis also said that drugs and violence are part of the community’s daily existence. “Niks keer dit nie,” she said.
A group of women nearby said that they heard six gunshots just the night before.. but as yet hadn’t heard if there were any fatalities.
They say hearing gunshots is normal to them.
The grandmother who had spoken earlier about her raising her grandchildren because her daughter is on drugs, said: “But where can we run to?”
All of the women who spoke, said that fear was simply a part of their lives.
Ms Vigis said that few come through it, once they are hooked. “My son was baited too, but he was very lucky. He did come through it. I threw him out of the house for one week, and then came right. He found his faith, and he has been a pastor now, for six years.”
The grandmother nodded. “Yes, some do make it. But others” she trailed off and turned away, blinking away tears.
This is reality, for many women and children. Being cognisant of this, the Western Cape Department of Social Development (DSD) has prioritised the development and protection of the province’s 1.7 million children and 2.1 million women.. beyond just this 16 day commemorative period.
Through the Children and Families programme and the Victim Empowerment sub-programme (VEP), the department aims to provide key services to women and children at risk, 365 days a year.
The department recently launched a 10-bed safe haven facility, which means that there are now 16 shelters in the Western Cape for abused women and children.
The demographic for violence abuse is not just economic, either.
Kathy Cronje of The Safehouse says that Masiphumelele has over 750 children in 19 unregistered creches, and Ocean View is living in crisis. But, she points out, the need for help is felt everywhere across the board, and that leafy suburbia suffers its own traumas, even if they are simply better hidden.
“If we had enough safe houses and followed every protocol in child protection, we would have to remove 60 percent of children in Masiphumelele, 60 percent of Ocean View’s children and 10 percent of the children in Red Hill,” she says.
These numbers speak to the horror that all of these children have suffered from one or more forms of abuse; including sexual, physical, emotional and neglect, Ms Cronje says.
She pegs poverty and drug abuse as two of the most often quoted reasons for the very high incidence of domestic abuse in the far south.
During this year’s 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Agaist Women and Children campaign, which runs until Saturday December 10, Social Development MEC Albert Fritz will be meeting with social workers and will be involved in a programme which focuses on the role of men and fathers. “We can end the abuse of women and children – if we continue to work together, and build partnerships with communities,” he said.
The public are urged to break the cycle of silence, and to report any cases of abuse of women and children by approaching the department’s social workers at regional or local offices, or by contacting the DSD hotline on 0800 220 250.
For help specifically in the far south, call The Safehouse on 021 785 1168 or email: info@thesafe
For after hour emergencies, contact the manager on 084 037 9102.
No walk-ins are allowed.