When community activist Roegshanda Pascoe was 10 years old, she remembers that was the time, that she first raised her voice on civic issues affecting her community. She was a foster child, who had moved to gang-ridden Manenberg only a few years earlier but she wanted to be heard from an early age.
She says in 2011, gang-warfare in the community of Manenberg, escalated. This led to a new phase in her life. Today she’s still an active crime fighter in the area, which has seen many innocent people killed in gang crossfire.
Now, she looks for non-violence solutions to tackle the gang problem, in her community.
Five years ago, gang violence again escalated in their neighbourhood. It was at that time, that Pascoe launched the Manenberg Safety Forum. An initiative to make crime fighters out of community members. She also started a Whatsapp group to fight crime.
She says today the area is well-connected. When a gang fight breaks out, community members would connect with one another, within seconds, with details about where the fight has broken out, and who is involved. This is their way of resisting gang warfare, in a non-violent way. It has also since spread to other parts of the Western Cape, where community members also use Whatsapp groups, to monitor activity in their neighbourhoods. Pascoe says the gangs fight the community by instilling fear and they by making their activities public, is their way of peacefully resisting and it’s the only weapon they have.
“Sometimes we have everything around us and assume we have nothing. I am a person that hate excuses, I work with solutions. And solutions are sometimes right in front of us and at times that we don’t see it that way.”
At the end of last year, she was invited to compile a book of stories of her experience on the Cape Flats. This special toolbook also reflected the time, when her daughter was hit by a strang bullet in gang crossfire. “I could have gone crazy like many other people, not knowing how to cope. And luckily for me, at that time I’ve already had a few tools with me, of who to contact, trauma centres, all those departments in addressing the issue,” says Pascoe.
She was also involved in the Taking Back Our Streets campaign, where people came together to take ownership of the neighbourhood, even amid rival gangs attacking one another.
“When I grew up we didn’t grow up with that. Though we didn’t have expensive play toys and all of that. But there was much love, amongst the neighbours for each others’ children and that is why I am doing what I’m doing. I know Manenberg consist of a very loving society. It just made me realise the good they have in them and so I will keep on doing what I do, until Manenberg, is where it should be.”
Thank you Roegshanda and all members of the Manenberg Safety Forum who are keeping communities on the Cape Flats, safe.