South Africa

CAPE OF FEAR

Safety structures’ infighting hampers crime prevention in Mitchells Plain

Safety structures’ infighting hampers crime prevention in Mitchells Plain
Communities like Mitchells Plain can ill afford to have disorganisation between community safety structures. The area is often in the headlines for crimes such as gangsterism, murders and assaults. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

If safety structures cannot work together in Mitchells Plain, how can they help reduce crime in one of South Africa’s most notorious hot spots? 

“Gangsters, unfortunately, are more organised, so we need an organised approach,” said Melusi Kama on Tuesday as neighbourhood watch structures met with the Western Cape Department of Community Safety to try to foster better relations in fighting crime.

Kama, who is part of the Standing Committee on Community Safety in the Westen Cape legislature, was speaking at the West End Primary School in Lentegeur, Mitchells Plain as the committee heard that there is a breakdown between neighbourhood watch and community policing structures in the area. 

Neighbourhood watch structures stated there were several issues with community policing forums (CPFs), including when it comes to the funding allocations and support provided to neighbourhood structures by the CPFs. 

Abdoraof Ismail, chairperson of the Portland Block B Neighbourhood Watch, said: “CPFs are saying that they don’t support neighbourhood watches because they are getting funding from DA ward councillors.” 

Other issues raised by neighbourhood watches include CPFs not giving them accreditation to become registered, and not having a voice when there are CPF elections happening in communities. 

The Mitchells Plain CPF was invited to the meeting, but did not pitch up. 

Communities like Mitchells Plain can ill afford to have disorganisation between community safety structures.  The area is often in the headlines for crimes such as gangsterism, murders and assaults. The Mitchells Plain Police Station had the country’s second-highest number of crimes recorded in the 2018/2019 crime statistics. It also had the second-highest number of reported attempted murder cases at 213 cases, and 627 reported cases of common robbery. The area had two police stations serving 310,485 people at the last census count in 2011. 

Ismail told Daily Maverick that crime in his part of Mitchells Plain isn’t as high as other parts of the area, but they do experience muggings, robberies and car theft. He has lived in Portland for almost 46 years and told Daily Maverick that compared to when he first moved in, the area is “like day and night – neighbours who have moved in, compared to their children who have become the problem”.

He said there were problems, especially when it comes to the arrest of suspects. “The biggest chunk of the problem is with SAPS [South African Police Service] – they can arrest but we can’t. If we don’t have that, our efforts will be in vain.”

Read in Daily Maverick: Western Cape Crime: Community guardian bodies at odds with one another and provincial department

“I think it’s something that we may have to come and talk to the committee again about,” said Gideon Morris, the head of department at the Department of Community Safety. He suggested that the committee and its chair, Reagan Allen, find a way to intervene in this issue. 

“Most of them are volunteers, so why do they have a sense of competition? In the community, we need as much help as possible.” 

Tuesday’s visit to the area was part of the provincial legislature’s mantra of “Taking Parliament to the People”. It was one of several activities this week that will take place in Mitchells Plain leading up to Premier Alan Winde’s second State of the Province Address, to be held on Thursday morning at the Rocklands Civic Centre. DM

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