‘Khayelitsha is bleeding’

People representing different faiths and denominations led the prayer at the Site C stadium last Wednesday with the hope of ending the ongoing gun violence in Khayelitsha.

Despite numerous efforts to stop crime in Khayelitsha, fear continues to grip Cape Town’s biggest township which is plagued by ongoing gun violence.

Last Wednesday religious leaders, residents and police came together for a day of prayer at the Site C Stadium as the community reels from a recent spate of murders.

The aim of the interfaith event was to build community solidarity among those opposed to crime.

One of the organisers, businessman and Khayelitsha resident Gerald Nomlala told Vukani: “Khayelitsha is bleeding.

“There is no source as to where exactly this is coming from. Thina as we are trying to come together and come up with a solution. This prayer gathering (is a way) of putting everybody under one roof and coming up with a solution,” he said.

Some of those who spoke to Vukani, on condition of anonymity, said they believed that the shootings were linked to gang activity.

Over the past two months there have been several mass shootings in Khayelitsha.

Two of happened in March, the first of them in the early morning of Monday March 14 when four men and one woman were shot dead in New Monwabisi Park. This was followed by another massacre less than a week later – on Sunday March 20 – when six young people were killed in Enkanini.

On Sunday May 8, another six people died in a shooting in Site C.

More recently three members of the same family died in Ekuphumleni in Khayelitsha when armed men stormed their house just after 8pm on Sunday May 22. Police say they fired several shots, killing two men and a woman.

Mr Nomlala told those gathered: “Every other day there is umntu ofaya eKhayelitsha and we are not sure who kills them. We came up with an idea of having an interfaith prayer whereby we gather all the religions. Even if you bring your God, Allah, Qamata and Thixo to be here to come and help us to come with an antidote of helping our people of how we reason,” he said.

However, he said, prayer just their start of their action against crime.

He said the plan was to go to the taverns, schools and other public places to spread a message of non-violence.

“We intend to go emajiteni who are energetic and say to them if you have a gun please hand over these guns, report crime, go to police where you can help rather than taking law into your hands,” he said.

“This is the commencement of everything to come in Khayelitsha. But before everything you need to pray.”

Another organising member, from the Kasi Angel Foundation, Mbulelo Dwane, said the foundation had noticed that young people were involved in crime, and therefore would be targeting them, in particular.

“As part of the solution, post this prayer we need youth programmes like crime awareness, sport, arts and culture, visual art, drama and all sorts of other programmes,” he said.

“We have partners with a lot of stakeholders with the hope that we will get the youth busy. Because when they are not busy they turn to crime. Most of these youth programmes will focus at schools,” he said.

Also involved in the organisation of the event was the Khayelitsha Development Forum which has been vocal about the killings.

Thandi Msuthu said she was happy that the mass prayer event had been successful.

“We held a prayer to try to quell the incidents. We also organised local artists to sing for them. Our theme was ‘Aukhathali na mfundisi sitshabalala’,” she said.

She urged people to help police fight – and prevent – crime.

Meanwhile, Site C residents who spoke to Vukani said they were still afraid and that most people had not attended the mass prayer event for fear of being targeted if they were seen to be against the criminals.

One 30-year-old Site C resident who attended but did not want to be identified in the media, said she was only there to see what was going to happen. She was not, however, hopeful that prayer would help.

“I don’t think prayer will help. But at this point we do not know what could help us. Maybe there might be one prayer that will be heard,” she said.

But a church member, countered that, saying that “prayer is everything”.

“People have tried everything but nothing has happened. I believe with prayer things will change for the better. But as you might have seen, Site C residents are few here. People are scared to appear in gatherings of this sort. But we hope for the best,” she said.

Mbulelo Dwane is hopeful that programmes planned for young people will help stop the ongoing shootings in Khayelitsha.
Businessman and founding member of Kasi Angels Gerald Nomlala believes in prayer before anything else.
Leaders of different faiths came together in prayer.
Khayelitsha residents came to honour the prayer with the hope of magical happenings in their areas.