Cape Town exposed beyond the beaches
In the past calendar year, 308 murders were reported in the crime-infested Western Cape township of Nyanga, South Africa. This startling revelation is according to the 2017/18 national crime statistics.
For its latest short documentary film project, the media team at Jesuit Institute South Africa in collaboration with the Society of Jesus in South Africa (Jesuits), visited Nyanga for a week to shoot an 8-minute snapshot of daily life. This palisade-fenced area of the province encloses people as though they were caged zoo animals, a local Catholic priest said.
Cape Town exposed beyond the beaches (2019), reveals the despicable reality of the crime and desperation lived in Nyanga. In stark contrast to the Cape Town known to many — as a tourist’s paradise — we wanted to highlight the inequality and the multitude of problems faced by its people.
The fatalities in the township are numbing and, crudely understood, mean that a life is lost here almost every day of the year. This revelation alone should bring politicians and our national government to act definitely and with haste. Sadly, it appears little is being done. The latest statistics reveal an upward trend in criminal activity in the region of almost 10% — especially in sexually-related offences and murder.
In fact, Rampeoane Hlobo SJ, Jesuit parish priest at St Mary’s, the local Catholic Church in Nyanga, confessed that “if one tries to abide by the law, one may just end up being a victim and a crime statistic as well. The problem is not that people do not want to obey the law but that those who do not want to obey the law terrorise the rest of the community and there are no policing and law enforcement agencies to protect law-abiding community members who want the rule of law. Consequently, lawlessness flourishes and reigns.”
Almost a quarter of those who live in Nyanga are between the ages of 15 and 24, making young people in the area perhaps the most susceptible to crime. In many cases, it is these very young people who are the perpetrators of such odious crimes, making it difficult to escape “the cycle of poverty, violence and death”, said Matsepane Morare SJ, the former Catholic priest at St Mary’s. But, Hlobo says, “the Church becomes a necessary and indispensable haven, not least for its young community members. We find ourselves journeying in solidarity with the people of Nyanga, the murder capital of South Africa and giving hope to many, especially the young”, he said.
But that’s not the whole story.
Beyond the blood-splatter and filth-lined streets, there is an incredible joy and a hope among those who live there. It was encouraging to see young children playing in the parks, albeit accompanied by their parents for fear that they may be kidnapped or enticed into a life of crime by local gang lords. Nyanga residents also braai openly on the streets, sharing their food generously with one another, amid township song and sips of the finest brew from the local shebeen.
The sense of community is undeniable. We met with a group of mothers at St Mary’s Catholic Church. They come together to support each other through the grief and pain of losing their children to gang violence. I beheld their sense of hope, even amid the turmoil and senseless violence. One student we interviewed at the Church said: “No one pays attention to us”, but her warm smile showed that she held no grudge or contempt.
Fr Ricardo da Silva SJ
Fr Ricardo da Silva SJ was born in Coimbra, Portugal and grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa. He had a career in marketing, communications and brand management before joining the Jesuits in 2007 and has studied communications (SA), philosophy (UK), theology (Brazil) and journalism (USA). He is passionate about liturgical music, communications, and ethics and takes delight in good company and food. He has ministered to a wide range of people in many different contexts, from the elderly to high school and university students, refugees, migrants and the homeless. He has just completed the foundational Master of Science degree at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
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Sr Katleho Khang SNJM
Sr Katleho Khang, is a member of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. She graduated from University of Lesotho with a Diploma in Mass Communication in 2009, double major B.A. in Theatre & Film and Conflict Resolution Studies, from University of Winnipeg, Canada in 2014, and trained in Coaching and Mediation Skills at Menno Simmons College, Winnipeg, Canada. Sr. Katleho also completed a Post Graduate Diploma in Media Management at the Sol Plaatje Media Leadership Institute at Rhodes University in 2015. Katleho has a passion for social justice and women issues. She has attended summits at the United Nations in New York on Sustainable Development 13 in 2004, and on Women Status in 2017. She worked in the NGO sector and has served as a Liaison officer on her religious order's Justice and Peace Network. She also worked for the Lesotho Catholic Bishops’ Conference as a Communication officer. In her spare time, Sr. Katleho enjoys reading, watching documentaries and photography.
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Mr Francis Tuson
Francis John Tuson grew up in Johannesburg and was exposed to Ignatian themes from a young age through his family’s involvement with Christian Life Communities (CLC). He attended De La Salle Holy Cross College for his initial schooling and then was home schooled before returning to De La Salle for his matric year. After trying both Music and Law at the University of the Witwatersrand, he studied Post-Production sound engineering at the Academy of Sound Engineering. Before joining the Jesuit Institute, Francis worked variously, as a dubbing engineer, a sound designer, and a final mix engineer – working on a variety of projects, with a many different languages from around the world including; Mandarin, Kiswahili, Portuguese, Hindi, Hausa, French and Zulu. Francis is working on as much of the Jesuit Institute’s media as possible, attempting to drag the Jesuit institute, and ultimately the Catholic Church into the 21st century. In his free time, Francis enjoys extreme sports,hiking, and playing music.
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