South Africa


New cadre of crime-busters? Gauteng’s Crime Prevention Wardens are doing little to combat crime, say residents

New cadre of crime-busters? Gauteng’s Crime Prevention Wardens are doing little to combat crime, say residents
Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi’s cadre of crime-busters were dispatched to 361 wards – mainly township and informal settlements on Monday, 1 May. But residents say they have not seen a significant crime reduction. (Photo: Amapanyaza / Twitter / Gallo Images / Luba Lesolle)

Four months after the deployment of Crime Prevention Wardens in Gauteng, those who live in the communities say nothing has changed. Instead, they note little evidence of crime reduction, reports of warden brutality, and wardens who are ill-equipped.

Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi first announced the creation of a new cadre of crime-busters, in his inaugural State of the Province address in February 2023, as part of his revamped anti-crime strategy. In his address, Lesufi committed to training 6,000 Crime Prevention Wardens (CPWs) — young men and women to monitor and police Gauteng 24 hours a day. The Gauteng government defines crime prevention wardens as a “multiplier force” supplementing police visibility and responsiveness in communities.

Community insights

The first batch of CPWs were dispatched to 361 Gauteng wards — mainly township and informal settlements  — on Monday, 1 May. Daily Maverick spoke to some community members in these wards.

Provincial chairperson of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) in Gauteng, Monwabisi Mbasa, said he does not believe the CPWs have made much of a difference in combating crime in their area. 

“We are not seeing much of a difference with them in the communities, especially when it comes to crime reduction. We see them driving in fancy cars and not doing anything useful, sometimes we are seeing them collecting bribes from the drug lords just like the SAPS (South African Police Service) do,” he claimed.  

Read more in Daily Maverick: Too early to judge impact of Gauteng’s crime wardens, says provincial police boss

In Tembisa, CPWs patrol once a month, finishing early and spending the majority of their time in police stations. “People feel unsafe at night and in the early evenings, and these wardens are nowhere to be seen,” he said. “Crime has not changed that much, but in other areas, they had a different experience of the wardens, particularly when they were starting out and brought a short-lived euphoria which dwindled over time.” 

More reports of brutality 

Mbasa has also received reports of abuse of power by the CPWs.  “Pupils around the Tshwane area have been assaulted for frivolous allegations, and other community members in Sedibeng and in West Rand are reporting about their violent behaviour when doing their random searching activities,” he said. “Their behaviour has been reported to be unpalatable and violation of human rights has been the description of their conduct.”  

One individual who asked to remain anonymous, told  Daily Maverick she frequently witnessed the CPWs assaulting people. “I see them quite often beating up people. They say there are drug dealers in Alexandra, and sometimes I see them at roadblocks or just driving around in their BMWs,” she said.  

Bruno Brown, a resident from Daveyton, said he had frequently witnessed the CPWs assaulting suspected drug dealers or drug users. “I have seen them go and get drug dealers from their homes and take the drugs and arrest the guy. But they sometimes forget or maybe they do not understand that their powers have a limit. They think they can just do anything because they are law enforcement officers,” said Brown.

The CPWs use addicts to gather intel about drug dealers, said Brown. “They actually force the addict to show them where the drug dealer lives by beating them up,” he said.  

“They even beat up drug dealers. They just use force every day and they come in numbers, it is like 30 guys coming at you and you are alone, when they get you they just beat you up.” 

Read more in Daily Maverick: ‘They started beating me, kicking me’ – Lesufi’s Gauteng crime prevention wardens accused of brutal assault

Brown said it was possible that the information the CPWs received would be inaccurate because they have no other methods to get information, verify, or investigate allegations further.  

“The only thing they can use is just force, if they beat up a Nyaope guy and he points out that a dealer lives at such a house, they just believe that. They do not investigate, they just use force. They believe that if they come to your place and beat you up, you will tell them the truth,” he said. 

Image: Amapanyaza / Twitter

The Soweto situation

Veronica Selomu, a resident from Diepkloof in Soweto, said she had seen the CPWs on television, but not in the streets of Diepkloof. Speaking to Daily Maverick, Selomu said her life is still the same, as she finishes work late in the evening and still gets mugged. 
“But till today, I never met this security in the streets or at shops. I’m still a victim of Noordgesig criminals in the morning and afternoon. I know I will meet the criminals, by the robots at Noordgesig [where] they take my phone and money and shoes. I will go back home, to borrow money from my neighbours to go to work.”  

Selomu said there was little she could do to avoid these incidents as she lives alone and has no one to walk with her to and from the taxi rank in the mornings.  “I don’t bother to buy fancy phones anymore because I know I’m buying them for other people. I don’t even bother to report the criminals to the police because I know I won’t get any help, so Panyaza is not helping reduce crime, it is getting worse,” she said. 

Mandla Mdlalose, a resident from Klipspruit in Soweto, said he had seen the CPWs walking around. However, they were not patrolling the area, but instead casually walking and talking among themselves. Mdlalose said some of the CPWs were using their phones, while others were eating. “They [CPWs] passed the boys who were selling drugs on the corner street. They were smoking drugs in front of them and they didn’t search them, they just pretended as if they didn’t see them,” he said.  

There are hot spot areas of crime in the area and yet, the CPWs are not present in these areas. “There are hot spots of crime here that you won’t walk alone in even during the day. If you can walk alone in those crime spots, the criminals eat you alive, and at night I’m telling you it’s either you lose your life or you wake up in hospital,” he said. 

Mdlalose questioned the purpose of CPWs if they would only be seen patrolling once a year, and where exactly they were patrolling because the community cannot see them.  

“As communities, we will be happy when we see amaPanyaza standing corner to corner, protecting children and vulnerable communities from criminals. We still have a high number of house robberies, and women and men screaming in the morning because of criminals robbing them,” he said. 

Walking route

Nondlela Ximba, not his real name, from Orlando in Soweto, said he walks every day due to lack of funds for transport, from his home to Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, where he works. When he heard about the CPWs, he was happy because it is common for Nyaope users to mug people crossing from Zone 5 to Zone 6. 

However, there are currently no CPWs in that area.  “Just imagine walking from Orlando to Diepkloof Zone 6, but not meeting any of these Panyaza Lesufi securities. We are still not safe or maybe we don’t understand how these amaPanyaza securities work,’’ said Ximba.  

“In Soweto, everyone knows about it, there is a car that is kidnapping school children. If there was security next to our schools and in our streets protecting our people, it wouldn’t be easy for kidnappers to take our children. We are not safe at all. We can’t send the children to the shops, because your child might not come back,” he said. 

Criminals roam freely around Soweto, robbing people of their phones and money. “If you fight back, they point a gun at you, they put you in a car, and drop you in the middle of nowhere,” said Ximba.

“If the security we were promised was delivered, there would be no criminals doing what they want in our streets. You can’t tell me that thousands of people are employed to be security but we don’t see them corner-to-corner or school-to-school.” 

“Maybe Panyaza Lesufi must come so that the communities show him where we want his security company to stand and patrol. Because what is he doing is not working, we want drug houses to be closed. Corner boys, who are standing the whole night selling drugs to our children, they must be kicked out of the streets,” he said.  

Concerns for the wardens 

An investigation by Daily Maverick showed that Lesufi jumped the gun in appointing and deploying up to 6,000 of these wardens, who seemed to be doing little to actually protect citizens from crime.  

Crime and policing experts have voiced concerns that the CPWs are inexperienced and ill-equipped to deal with the complex laws they will be expected to enforce, and could make certain situations worse with their interventions. 

Community members have also voiced concerns about the CPWs not having adequate equipment to combat crime. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Gauteng Crime Prevention Wardens set up unlawfully — experts 

Brown said he does not believe the CPWs received adequate training, and they are unsure of the laws they are enforcing. “They think just by having a green uniform and being in the streets it is enough for them to tell you what is right or wrong,” he said. 

An individual from Tembisa, who asked not to be named, described the wardens as “incompetent”, saying that they had not been trained or given adequate equipment to prevent crime, with most only being given pepper spray.  He recalled an incident in the Ekurhuleni area where the CPWs were robbed and had to run in disarray, asking for help from community members. “That was a demonstration of the weaknesses that have been cited in different communities. Some of them, particularly those who occasionally go around patrolling on foot, are vulnerable,” he said. 

Some residents in Alexandra said while the CPWs had not made much of a difference in combating crime in the area, they could not expect them to do so, given what little tools they had. “I wonder when we will see them wearing bulletproof vests and also holding guns because I am worried about their safety, especially those who work around Soshanguve, Mamelodi and Atteridgeville,” said one anonymous female resident. 

“How are they supposed to fight crime without bulletproof vests and firearms?  It is even worse when they are fighting against the criminals who are carrying illegal guns,” she said.  

Unemployment driving sign-ups

One source believed that most of the CPWs signed up because they were desperate for jobs. “The majority of them are demoralised and not comfortable with working conditions. They have no name tags, no logos on their uniform, and no weapons except pepper spray. They are made to stand on corners and wait for action to happen.” 

Speaking to Daily Maverick, another individual said his street has numerous drug dealers, yet the CPWs have not intervened. “Since they are not armed properly, I think they [CPWs] are scared to approach them and drug lords are not far from where there are drug users,” he said.

The CPWs are contracted for 12 months, earning R6,360.20 with no benefits, and from 1st August 2023, they have started working 12-hour shifts. These include night shifts with no benefits nor risk allowance. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Pieter van de Venter says:

    Just another publicity stunt of Panyaza. Just the same as the e-toll stories.

  • Andre Swart says:

    ”kits konstabels’ was tried decades ago … and they FAILED!

    Panyaza emulate the German ‘stormtroopers, a paramilitary group deployed to the streets to cause violence against the political rivals in a way the Nazis could deny involvement’.

    For rigging the 2024 general election?

  • Good hopefully you are fine I just want to be a part and part of how to apply

  • Bob Dubery says:

    Yep. These are just the infamous “kitskonstabels” by another name. They don’t have the training to spot crime, to know the law, to defuse a tense situation. That all said, I think Lesufi and his fans only have one real expecation: A couple of foreign types get a bump on the head and chased out of town.

  • John Cartwright says:

    This is a striking example of how not to do community policing or law enforcement: totally inadequate training, no line of accountability, no guidelines. What a waste of money! Municipalities have a mandate to do law enforcement on local matters, and the way forward is for such neighbourhood-based officers to be deployed as part of this mandate, with a strong emphasis on prevention through (peacefully!) getting to know and be known in designated neighbourhoods, and passing on valuable information and intellegence to their enforcement colleagues – not this kind of absurd and ignorant scatter-shot approach.

  • Peter Streng says:

    Another failed cANCer project. They just cant get it right ….

  • CPW must deployed at schools to monitor and be visible to help the school securities and search for weapons and drugs everyday for the safety of learners and teachers and must be there 24/7

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted


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