Lucinda – everyday hero in Lavender Hill

Lavender Hill, despite its pretty name, is one of the most violent townships in Cape Town. At the heart of Lavender Hill lives Lucinda. For more than ten years, she has worked to help vulnerable women and children in her neighbourhood. Lucinda used to run all of her activities from of her own home, including a shelter for abused women. She also organized leisure activities for children to keep them off the street. At Lucinda’s house, the children learned about their rights, good and bad secrets, and what adults can and cannot do to children. Lucinda did all this with the help of friends and acquaintances and did not take out a salary. With support from Childhood, she has had premises for her work for the past two years, is able to take a salary every month and has employed staff.

A wave of brutal child murders and kidnappings

During 2017, Cape Town, and in particular, Cape Flats where Lavender Hill is located, experienced a wave of brutal child murders and kidnappings. Lucinda’s organization, Philisa Abafazi Bethu, was involved in arranging the search efforts that followed the disappearance of the children, with as many as a thousand people helping out.  During the searches, it was also discovered that many houses in the area were being used as “hangouts,” where young girls kidnapped by older men or members of Lavender Hill’s criminal gangs were taken to be drugged and raped. Some of them had also been taken by the gang leaders to luxury hotels in Cape Town, where they were drugged and abused. The girls’ parents had reported the crimes to the authorities, but had not received any help.

In memory of Rene

During and after these tragic events, Lucinda played a key part in supporting the families in the area and preventing riots. She made the team of older female volunteers that gathered to search for the children permanent. The team got the name Rene; after the first girl they looked for, who was found  raped and murdered behind a neighbour’s house after nearly two weeks.

The Rene Roman Search and Rescue Team now escorts unaccompanied children home after dark and carries out night patrols – all in the name of stopping children from being abducted and raped. Lucinda and Philisa Abafazi Bethu are now also lobbying for a compulsory requirement for school drivers to present extracts from the sexual offenders’ register when they are employed. The reason for this is a case involving a driver who groomed a child and raped her over an extended period of time.

Text: Åsa Andreasson Åkerström