‘We live in a shack – bullets pass through easily’

Sights on a better life: Anathi Mlonyeni wants to leave Philippi. (David Harrison/M&G)​

Sights on a better life: Anathi Mlonyeni wants to leave Philippi. (David Harrison/M&G)​

Philippi is becoming one of the most dangerous townships in the country; the level of crime is rising day by day. Living here is not easy. We live in fear.

According to the State of Urban Safety in South Africa Report 2018/19 by the South African Cities Network, Cape Town has the highest rates of murder, robbery and property-related crimes.

I have been living in an informal settlement in Philippi for three years now and the violence and crime feels like it is escalating every year.
Gunshots have become a huge part of our daily lives. Gunshots ring out day and night. It’s terrifying. I have become used to the sound of a firing gun. But, at the same time, when a gun goes off I panic because I am scared of dying.

A few weeks ago, 13 people were killed in 24 hours in Philippi. Six of them were women. They were shot dead in cold blood. The killings shocked a lot of people and I was very scared. I even considered leaving my home. But, because I had nowhere else to go, I was forced to stay.

There are various murders happening within the area that you can never see on the news. In March, my neighbour’s husband was shot dead. They owned a spaza shop, right in front of our house.I still remember the day as if it were yesterday. It was abou thalf past seven and my sisters and I were cooking supper.

We heard three gunshots. We were frightened and we hid under our beds (we live in a shack — bullets pass through easily). A few seconds later we heard another three shots then a man crying, “Yhoooo.” I just knew the husband was shot. By the time we left our home to see what was happening, he was already dead. His murderers were nowhere to be found. 

Violence also hits closer to home.

Earlier this month my sister was almost raped by a group of men. She did not know who they were and she did not recognise any of them. She was on her way from a friend’s place where they had had a party. Four men came out of nowhere and grabbed her. One of them said: “Masiyidlwengule le way [Let’s rape her]”. She was lucky though and managed to run and get away. All she left behind was her jacket.

The next morning my sister heard that one of her friends whom she was with at the party had been shot dead.

Again, we don’t know who the culprits are.

The police were doing all they could to handle the crime and gang problem, but they have failed. People here in Philippi pray that the army will do something better to fight the gangs in our townships so that the people can live in peace and not in fear. We are human beings, after all.

I don’t know if I can stay in Cape Town any longer. I am even thinking of moving to Johannesburg next year. I don’t know how much more I can take. I am terrified. 

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