Former Lavender Hill resident returns home to help youth
FOR YEARS they were proud members of the Lavender Hill Superstars, a cross-dressing netball team that bought some glamour to the poverty- stricken neighbourhood. Zsa Zsa of Lavender Hill aka Ralph Bouwers and Natalie Cole aka Clive Jacobs and the rest of the “girls” had a huge following.
Residents would pack picnics and head to the netball courts where they would make a day of it. Even the gangsters came to watch the games.
Bouwers recalls that in those days – the mid to late 1990s – the gangsters had some respect for the community. “Nowadays there is a different mentality.”
Ten years ago Bouwers, who trained as a dispensing optician, decided to move abroad after the Superstars disbanded in 2002.
“I saw the UK as an opportunity to uplift myself.”
While living and working in London for the past 10 years, he never forgot his roots.
“Lavender Hill has always been my first love. I feel at home here – the community is in my blood.”
But after living in London managing a busy cataract and laser eye centre, it was quite a culture shock returning home.
“I haven’t slept properly for four months. At night there are sirens, shootings and dogs barking constantly.”
But Bouwers wants to give back to the community he came from.
He is now also a certified hypnotherapist and neuro-linguistic-programmer and together with Jacobs has set up an organisation to work with youngsters.
It is called Guardians of the National Treasure and aims to offer an intervention to children at risk of becoming gangsters.
“These are our next fathers and leaders. We want to give them an opportunity.”
Guardians of the National Treasure aims to use sport, the arts, to provide emotional support as well as educational opportunities for children in the area.
Bouwers said he was distressed to see former sports icons from the area selling chips on the side of the road for 50 cents and youngsters who matriculated in 2005 sitting on street corners because they couldn’t find jobs.
Jacobs said Lavender Hill had become a forgotten community. “Our youth are dying out.” He said it was too easy for youngsters to get guns in Lavender Hill. “So many of them are running round with guns. And they are trigger-happy.
“People are being shot yet the fatcat politicians responsible for our safety and security are nowhere to be seen.”
The violence has already hit close to home. Last Sunday, Bouwers’s niece’s fiancée was shot dead in the same street as his office in Lavender Hill. And on Friday, just a few hours after an interview with the Cape Argus, a man was shot dead nearby.
Zario van Schalkwyk, 24, was due to marry Bouwers’s niece Tursia, 27, in November. Now Tursia will have to raise their 4year-old twin boys Caleb and Cayden alone.
Van Schalkwyk was shot in the heart while on his way to his mother’s house to pick up some pot plants. A memorial in the street where he died has been set up. His young sons have picked flowers every day since he died, to place there.
Police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Andrè Traut confirmed the shooting and said the circumstances were being investigated.
The man shot on Friday was Orrel William, 41. No arrests had been made, Traut said.
For another resident, Janap Bredekamp, the hardest part was not having closure.
Her son Shagmie Bredekamp, 24, was shot last month.
“No one saw or said anything, so must I just accept it? My brother said I must just sell up and move to Mitchells Plain, but I don’t want to do that.”
Bouwers said it was people like this that he also wanted to help, as well as youngsters in dire circumstances. He knows it will be tough, but he believes he now has the skills to turn some lives around.
GUARDIANS OF THE NATIONAL TREASURE AIMS TO USE SPORT, THE ARTS, TO PROVIDE EMOTIONAL SUPPORT AS WELL AS EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES FOR CHILDREN