The dictionary definition of ‘Crisis’ is: an unstable situation of extreme danger or difficulty.
Whether it’s the Facebook algorithm or just my reading habits, the deaths of Coloured men and women kept popping up in my news feed the past few weeks. Last week Friday, 75-year-old Hashim Achmed Dennis was beaten to death in his Northpine home. The Sunday, 36-year-old father, Cameron Constable was shot dead in Hanover Park. The Monday, 28-year-old mother of 3 Arlene Manuel and 27-year-old pregnant Milandre van Wyk were shot dead in Kraaifontein. The Wednesday, 31-year-old Jonathan Hill was robbed and stabbed to death in Lotus River. On the same day, newlywed Leeroy Geswindt, 32, was stabbed to death in Scottsdene. If, at this point, you’re waiting for me to say Syria — gat djy maa lank wag, all of these areas are in Cape Town.
If the above incidents were just an exception, then calling it a crisis would somehow give me a bitter-sweet sense of hope, ’cause surely there would be emergency measures implemented to deal with this sudden instability. Sadly, growing up in Manenberg, I am all too well aware that this situation of “extreme danger or difficulty” is not something new, but something normal. Coloured people make up just under 9% of the population of South Africa, yet make up nearly 20% of the prison population. The murder rate for Coloured people is higher than any other group in South Africa. Nou voo djy jou hand opstiek om te sê “Ôsse mense suffer oek”, I’m not stating these facts to start the Suffering Olympics to determine which group is the champion of suffering. I’m just zooming in on the crisis that impacts my life directly and I’m trying to find solutions instead of accepting this sad normality.
I have brasse with varying reasons as to why the crisis exists. Some blame it on the ramifications of Apartheid, others blame the current government, some say it’s a case of bad individual choices and others put it down to natural results of chronic poverty. Whatever the reasons for how all this kak began, it hasn’t done anything to stop the kak. In fact, statistically, the kak is getting worse.
Since I was a child, there have been marches, military interventions and politicians peddling carrots of hope during election season. The marches did well to demonstrate our anger, however, staying angry when you can’t afford to miss work and make ends meet, means the marches never yield long-lasting results. Djy raak kwaad, maa djy’s te afbiene om kwaad te bly. The deployment of the military has always just been a band-aid; it’s not an attempt at healing the root cause. There is not a single political party or politician that can honestly claim to have done something to make a substantial difference. If there is one, asseblief tog, come prove me wrong.
An example of the ineptness of current politicians can be seen in a few recent tragedies. Jesse Hess was murdered in 2019 by someone out on parole. Perhaps after that highly publicised case which helped spark the big march to Parliament in September last year, the government could’ve implemented measures to reform the current parole system — especially when it involves sex offenders. Kaanti, nothing was really done, ’cause following that, twelve-year-old Michaela Williams was murdered by another parolee convicted of the rape and attempted murder of an eight-year-old girl. Perhaps, after this case, the president would’ve lived up to the promises he gave protestors. Kaaaaaaaaanti, we are currently looking for eight-year-old Tazne van Wyk who went missing and the person of interest is alleged to be . . . wait for it . . . another blerrie parolee!
If there is one thing that the government has convinced me of, more than anything, is that we’re on our own. With that realisation, I lived my life not being dependant on outside help. My mind was made up at a young age; I will work my way out of this war zone, then work to get my mother out. And then finally, do my part in investing back into the Cape Flats until it became the Cape Heights. Yes I know it sounds like a fantasy, but hey, having already achieved the first two goals, my two-thirds success rate means you shouldn’t be judgerag.
Some may say that wanting to give back to the community that raised you is just naïve talk and that most who make it out never come back. However, I am haunted by an image of a young man who would become the last thing I saw as I moved my taanie out of Manenberg.
It was a quiet night, the roads were empty and I was driving my mom with the last load of her belongings. This would be the final trip of the move, meaning it was literally her goodbye to an area she called home for over half a century. While reminiscing on my childhood days in what is known as the “Tjatjies”, my mother suddenly shouted out “Pasop!”. I quickly applied the brakes as I saw what exactly had startled her. It was a body lying in the road. We were the first on the scene, as I could see sirens approaching in the distance and women running towards our direction.
I slowly proceeded to switch lanes and as we got closer, we saw that half of the young man’s face had been shot off. I saw many things growing up, but this image shook me the most. My mother started crying, turned to me and said, “That could’ve been you.”
Today when I visit her in her new home, where the only gunshots she hears are on TV, she often speaks about Manenberg. It’s in these conversations that I can hear that her tears that night were not just for that young man or even me, but she was crying for a forgotten group of people who have to wake up each day and try to survive their Coloured crisis.