With the murder of newlywed Swedish national Anni Dewani following the hijacking of the taxi she and her British husband Shrein were travelling in last weekend, a spotlight has been cast on crime in Gugulethu.Residents have spoken out about daily the daily gauntlet of violence they run in the township and how perceptions of Gugulethu as a politically sussed party spot are false.
While Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa and Commissioner Bheki Cele stated they were shocked at Dewani’s murder, many Gugulethu residents said they were not surprised.
By all accounts the Dewani’s were being driven back to Cape Town along the N2 in a VW Sharan on Saturday after having dinner in Somerset West when Anni suggested they detour into Gugulethu to get a taste of nightlife in the townships.
It was about 10pm.
“Anni grew up in Sweden, and she felt as if the area around this hotel was just like at home: so clean and safe, and maybe a bit sterile. She had never been to Africa before, so she suggested that we should have a look at the ‘real Africa’,” Shrein Dewani was quoted as saying in an interview to the British Daily Mail this week.
‘The stop was on the way back here and was intended so that we could experience a township. We were barely in the Gugulethu township when the attack happened.”
It appears the couple planned to pop into Mzoli’s, a popular butchery and eating spot made famous by UK celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.
They were hijacked at the intersection of NY108 and NY112, about 100 metres from Mzoli’s and about 500 metres from the Gugulethu police station.
The driver was forced out of the car and the couple driven through the township for about 20 minutes before Shrein was forced out at gunpoint.
The car, with Anni’s body on the backseat, was found in Lingelethu West, Khayelitsha at about 10am the next day.
Gugulethu residents interviewed this week questioned why a local driver would agree to drive a foreign couple into the township late on a Saturday night.
They said most intersections are regarded as no-go zones after dark as hijackings and robberies occurred on an almost nightly basis.
“When the sun-sets we have no choice but to stay indoors,” said Bulelwa Mkhitha, 34, who lives on NY112.
Mkhitha said only people who had lived in Gugulethu a long time ventured out at night and even then they did not go far from home.
She said hijackers normally targeted company cars that were stripped during the night and the parts sold to local mechanics.
“The recent incident is one of many that we hear about when we wake up the next day,” she said.
Unathi Stemela, 30, who lives about 100 meters from the intersection where the Dewani’s were hijacked, said crime was “out of control” in some parts of the township and police were not doing enough to combat it.
Stemela said many young people who dropped out of school and abused drugs and alcohol were to blame for the high crime rate.
“During the day it is just a normal day but at night you have to be careful of where you go because it is so dangerous. One might be a statistic the next day.
“Although we are living in fear we have become used these criminal acts to an extent that we don’t become shocked when an incident occurs,” said Stemela.
“What happened (to Anni Dewani” is sad but not shocking,” said Gugulethu resident Lisa Mdutyulwa, 54.
“We are used to these kinds of incidents and they have become our part of life, one just has to be careful,” she said.
Resident from surrounding townships like Nyanga and Philippi said they hesitated to visit Gugulethu.
Philippi resident Asekhona Mhlaba, 29, when it came to organised crime, Gugulethu was “very dangerous”.
He said many people were unemployed, as in other townships, but they wanted to “live the bling-bling life” and got their money by robbing outsiders. – Sandiso Phaliso, West Cape News