Cosatu threatens W Cape shut down if province fails to deal with gangsterism

Cosatu in the Western Cape has confirmed that it will file a section 77 notice on Tuesday after being approached by communities across the Cape Flats who are struggling under a barrage of gang violence.

A section 77 notice means that Cosatu and its affiliates will be able to hold talks on gang violence with the provincial and national government through the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac). If the talks fail, the labour federation plans to hold a general strike, which will bring almost all economic activity in the Western Cape to a halt.

Cosatu provincial secretary Malvern de Bruyn confirmed to the Mail & Guardian that a Section 77 notice will be filed on Tuesday.

“We have a whole list of communities that approached us for assistance from Manenberg to Strand. We had a meeting last night and we were given a mandate to file the notice. We share the same plight as these communities because it’s our members being killed,” de Bruyn said.

Once the notice has been filed, Nedlac will be responsible for setting a date where all stakeholders can meet to discuss the complaint.

In Cape Town, there has been unprecedented mass action against gang violence over the past month, reminiscent of the anti-apartheid resistance movements. Communities on the Cape Flats have united to help one another shut down their areas and reclaim their streets from gangsters who recruit youngsters, sell drugs, and are responsible for daily shootouts that claim lives.

READ MORE: Standing up for Bonteheuwel: ‘We did it in 1976, and we will do it now’

These organised rolling protests have seen Bonteheuwel, Kensington and Factreton shut down. On Wednesday, Bishop Lavis will join the shut down movement with support from the Bonteheuwel community. The area plans to close its five entrances at 5am, blocking all cars, taxis and buses from leaving and entering.

“We commit ourselves to a peaceful demonstration,” said Victor Altensteadt, president of the Bishop Lavis Action Committee (Blac).

Blac has been responsible for organising the shut down on Wednesday. The protest was inspired after community members in Kensington and Factreton, 11 kilometres from Bishop Lavis, shut down a road in the area to protest against gang violence.

Bonteheuwel followed suit in late August, with community members blockading all entrances and exits to the area in peak hour morning traffic to demand more police resources be allocated to stop gang violence.

In the past three days, four people have been killed in Bishop Lavis, Altensteadt said. The latest crime statistics, released on Tuesday, show that the Bishop Lavis police station — which also provides services to Valhalla Park, Bonteheuwel and Netreg — is among the top 30 stations in the country with the highest rates of reported murder.

“Bishop Lavis is one of the top murder capitals in our country, and we believe the police is totally inept to deal with the crime in our community,” Altensteadt said.

“We cannot be hostages in our own community while the gangs rule with an iron fist. They are turning our kids into child soldiers and drug peddlers because that is the only thing our young people can do nowadays,” he said.

Bishop Lavis won’t be alone on Wednesday morning. In a protest of solidarity, Elsies River residents, less than 5 kilometres away, will picket at nine different locations in the area to bring attention to gang violence.

Imraahn Mukaddam, a community leader in Elsies River, said that the community would not shut down the area because there is a risk that gangsters will target motorists who are stuck in traffic nearby.

“The dynamics of our community is slightly different to Bishop Lavis in terms of that there is a much more dense population with a high number of gangs in the vicinity. We wouldn’t want to hold up traffic because we have issues with smash and grabs,” Mukaddam said.

“In the interest of commuter safety we decided not to go with a shutdown yet because of the risk to innocent people,” he continued.

Mukaddam, who was responsible for blowing the whistle on the infamous bread cartel in 2006, was at the meeting on Monday night when a decision was taken for a Section 77 notice to be filed. He believes that the only way the Western Cape government will pay attention to the onslaught of gang violence on vulnerable communities is if the economy is disrupted.

“The Nedlac process should be a lot more effective in getting the government to the table. The way to get the government’s attention is when you have an economic shut down and a general strike throughout the Western Cape where workers down tools in a legal process. It has a real economic impact,’ Mukaddam said.

“As much as a community shutdown has an impact in drawing attention to the plight of communities, it’s actually self-inflicted because you are shutting down your own community. The rest of the economy carries on as normal,’ he continued.

Blac has obtained a permit to protest on Wednesday which will also cover residents in Elsies. A memorandum of demands to police — which includes demands for social housing, increased police visibility, shutting down drug dens, and more street lights — will be handed over. Altensteadt said that police will be expected to respond in 2 weeks or rolling mass action would continue.

“It is time to take back our streets,” Altensteadt said. 

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Raeesa Pather
Raeesa Pather
Ra’eesa Pather is a Cape Town-based general news and features journalist.

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