Neighbourhood watch patrollers in Khayelitsha find themselves locked out

Ward 98 Youth Development Council say they had the office closed

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Photo of locked doors to an office
The neighbourhood watch office in Harare Square has been locked for more than a week. Patrollers say it is a major inconvenience for them and crime will increase. Photo: Mary-Anne Gontsana

Harare neighbourhood watch patrollers from ward 98 in Khayelitsha say they cannot work efficiently since they were locked out of their office more than a week ago. The patrollers, made up of 20 men and women, had an office through Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading (VPUU) in Harare Square. People would come to the office to report crimes.

Neighbourhood watch secretary Jonguxolo Ngesi said: “Since the first day of closure, we have witnessed crime increasing again, literally on a daily basis. We have had numerous reports from business owners in Harare Square who just a day after our offices were closed, were robbed.

“One woman, who owns a salon, told me that a group of young boys came to her and robbed her of her cellphone at knife point. That same day in the evening, a shipment container used as an office [by a local business] was taken by a white truck that no one knows.”

Ngesi said six of their members used to be stationed at the office every day for people to report crimes.

“We also did patrols and were constantly visible. We also have computers, phones and work cellphones that we used to contact the police in that office. We are not even sure why the office is closed, but we know that politics is involved because people responsible for this closure are the ward councillor and members of the ANC Youth League branch here in ward 98,” said Ngesi.

But Yanga Mjingwana of the Ward 98 Youth Development Council said the closure had nothing to do with the councillor. He said the patrollers knew very well why the office was closed: “The neighbourhood watch members used the office for their own advantage, like sitting around and doing nothing or using the phone for other things. The office had no impact and we are not sure yet when it will be reopened.”

Mjingwana said they had taken their complaints to the VPUU management and asked for it to be locked until the issues were resolved.

The neighbourhood watch, which originally started with 30 members, is made up of unemployed volunteers. Ten members are stationed elsewhere than Harare. They work alongside SAPS, the Community Policing Forum and the South African National Civic Organisation. They provide security to the local residents and businesses. After starting on a purely voluntary basis in response to rising crime in the ward, the patrollers later got support from the VPUU.

Patroller Funyanwa Sobethwa said, “We fear that because of this closure, the crime rate at the VPUU will go even higher. We don’t even have space anymore to hold meetings. We have to ask for space at nearby schools or we just meet on the nearby field.”

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TOPICS:  Crime

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