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Brave

The last 5 months our community was badly affected by gang violence. This really numbed me as a community worker. I’ve been working for the last 15 years in my community this is the worst I’ve ever seen the violence spiralling throughout Manenberg.

I’ve seen how young boys between the ages of 14-17 years old who should be in school still ran around with guns. It is very sad to see how our young people are trapped into joining a gang or they must give their life as the price for not joining the gang.

We have always had gang violence in our community, but the level of gang fights has become more and more gruesome. Before people might have been shot like in the arm or leg nowadays, we see that people get shot in the face at close range. This is the newer generation of gangs that has been bred. The young men have no respect at all for seniors when we had gang fights before the gangsters will say “can you clear the road because we will shoot now”. Now we don’t even get a warning they just start shooting and don’t mind who is in the road. The guns they used was not as bad as the ones they are using nowadays, I’ve never felt fearful with gang fights in the early 2000’s but currently it makes me scared if there is gang violence now.

Innocent people get injured in the gang violence. Mothers walking to the shop with their children get injured, children on their way to school get caught in the crossfire. My office is in the middle of the gang war and when they start shooting, we need to duck and lay flat on the floor because we are on the second level in the building and we had bullets coming through our windows so many times. Gang members running behind seniors in the community, using them as a shield and shooting back to the rival gang members. This is the state our community is in, no respect for anyone anymore.

When I walked around in the community performing my responsibilities, I was caught in the crossfire, twice already. It’s only some parts of the community which is affected by the gang violence and people are so scared to even go out to do their shopping because they must run back when they come home with the public transport. We had one resident who actually posted a video on social media to plea for her to get a place outside of Manenberg because she can no longer cope with the shootings. She lived in Manenberg for over 30 years, she had enough of this bullets coming through her windows and she has small children in the house who always have to stay flat on the floor because you don’t know when a bullet might come in.

I can only imagine what goes through the minds of the young girls we are working with. Depressed because they can’t go out due to this gang violence and they have no BRAVE workshop to attend where they feel safe to share their thoughts and speak up about things which matters to them. Young ladies also feel it’s unfair that they should be kept hostage in their own community by these gangsters.

I can see how the greater part of the community is moving around freely and where I operate from its very tense, and no one is around in the streets. At most times it looks like a ghost town outside the building where we host our workshops.

This gang fight has really affected my mental health state. I’ve started to go onto anti-depressants to just help me cope with the trauma we face in our community. I’ve never felt as helpless as now with this gang violence. There are many days which I just burst out crying because I can’t deal with it. What amaze me is the guns that they are using in this gang fight automatic rifles it sometimes sounds like we are in the middle east with shootings going on for like an hour or so.

Questions keep popping up – what our government is doing in the different spheres to commit to the safety of our communities on the Cape Flats. I’ve noticed when one calls the police they take long to respond, or they will say that there are two vehicles and they might be stationed at a crime scene.

I’m also very aware that there is corruption in our police system. Guns that go missing at police stations and then landing up in our communities. I’m once again grappling with our justice system, and it really makes me loose faith in our justice system. It’s very hard for us in gang-infested communities to trust the police because sometimes you don’t know if you will be targeted because of the corruption.

I’ve started to focus more on gardening as a format to cope with the trauma I’m dealing with in the community. I’ve also cut off from work completely over weekends and in the evenings when I get home from the office. I’ve just decided to look after myself and take the needed time to process the trauma one is facing with regards to the gang violence.

Well, the above mentioned is my coping structure but I’m always thinking of the young girls we work with and how they cope because they are in the community every day and night. I’ve been lucky to move out of the community and just coming to work.

Veronica Adams, Brave Rock Girl Community Mentor, this is her reflection on the period 4 April – 8 September 2023 when a brutal gang war took place.