JUST across the N1 from the Bloekombos informal settlement is another peri-urban patch of land. The farm watch here was often dispatched to help the Borcherdses. I met briefly with the chairperson, Rian Uys, at his home on a smallholding.
Uys has the quiet confidence of a man who is capable of violence. He has a buzzcut and is wearing a camo raincoat as he stands waiting for me in the drizzle. His home is surrounded by a complex security apparatus, all cameras and crackling electric wires. He was attacked on holiday in Gansbaai a few months prior and spent a long time in hospital. He believes it was a revenge attack for a gang arrest he’d made in Kraaifontein. His thirteen-year-old daughter is in therapy to deal with the anxiety this event caused; his wife, he says, goes shopping in Kraaifontein with a small concealed pistol. When he goes on patrol with the watch, he takes a bulletproof vest and a couple of flashbangs. He plays all of this down, though, and I get the sense he is only speaking to me as a favour to our mutual contact. As soon as I turn on the recorder, his entire demeanour changes, and his answers become curt, although the facts of the matter filter through.
Uys’s life and the stories he tells me are the new normal in parts of the peri-urban fringe around Cape Town’s northern suburbs: six disfigured corpses found in scrub just off a main road in a mob-justice incident in Joostenbergvlakte; a nine-year-old girl, Privilege Mabvongwe, kidnapped in front of her home in Kraaifontein and her body later found at a dumping site in Bloekombos; Hannah Cornelius, a Stellenbosch student abducted outside her res, raped and murdered, and found in Kraaifontein. In recent years, police stats have consistently placed Kraaifontein as one of the worst areas in the province for serious violent crimes. Cape Town mayor Dan Plato noted in a speech in September 2018 that the Western Cape has nine of the country’s top thirty worst police stations for contact crimes – murder, rape, robbery and the like – and one of them is Kraaifontein, alongside places like Nyanga, Delft and Khayelitsha. The total number of murders in the area shot up by 31 per cent to 186 for the 2019 period – a murder every other day. This might not be shocking to South Africans at large, but to the people, including myself, who grew up knowing Kraaifontein as a largely unremarkable working-class neighbourhood, the change is staggering...
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