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Plagued by mass shootings and violent crime, Khayelitsha residents and neighbourhood watches used the recent community imbizo to tell Bheki Cele how to deal with crime in the area. Held at the Desmond Tutu Hall on Monday, the ministerial crime imbizo was a follow up to a crime summit that took place in June at False Bay College.

Community members and neighbourhood watch groups called for accountability from the SAPS and requested relevant stakeholders to implement suggestions that were made at the June summit. Particularly, residents want government to have a closer working relationship with local crime prevention initiatives, and to consider compensating the neighbourhood watch.

“We cannot afford to politicise crime, because once we do that, we divide ourselves as the community and criminals win, political parties aside,” said Fransina Lukas, the provincial CPF board chairperson.

The neighbourhood watch plays a critical role in the safety of community members on a daily basis. This includes waking up at dawn to walk children to schools and community members to work. However, they feel unsupported by the community and government as they risk their lives, endure insults from community members but do not get compensated for their work.

Neighbourhood watch member, Nelisa Bomvana, asked that the work of the neighbourhood watch be recognised. “We have no training [and] we do not get a stipend,” said Bomvana. Neighbourhood watch members echoed these sentiments at the hall as it has a significant impact on their work ethic.

According to residents, the majority of the neighbourhood watch members are people above the age of 35 and as a result do not qualify for most government learnerships. Noluthando Siyo from Site B called for the accreditation of neighbourhood watch work. “Accredit neighbourhood watch so that people can get jobs,” she said.

Responding to the call to create safer communities, Minister of Police Bheki Cele agreed that it is important that community patrollers and the community policing forum be given the necessary equipment such as safety boots and reflective jackets and promised that the matter of a stipend is under discussion.

“We are moving resources from where they are least needed to where they are needed most in this province. Therefore, 80 officers have now been shifted from more affluent areas where crime is under control or, in some instances, non-existent and moved to high priority stations such as Khayelitsha. We believe this shift will assist heavily in proactive and reactive policing,” said Cele.

He further added that the safety of residents will no longer be compromised as they depend on a mobile police station at Makhaza Mall that closes at 4pm. The mobile police station is expected to be moved to the local community hall.

During the crime summit in June, Cele said that they have allocated R10-million to eight of the Cape Town stations that are in the top 30 stations with the highest reported crime levels. “The extra R10-million is for them to run things at the station level. Its beyond the equity budget that the province will get. It’s over and above the R10-million that has been allocated to the anti-gang unit, it’s also over and above the R15,8 million that is allocated to fight gender-based violence, and over and above the R9-million that has been allocated for the safety of the stations,” he said.

Reagan Allen, the Western Cape community safety MEC, promised to provide the necessary resources to community policing structures after more than one patroller complained of how unsafe they are doing the work of trying to keep the community safe and free of crime.

The provision of stipends for community policing structures across the country, is currently under consideration by the management of the SAPS and other concerned stakeholders. The police minister said it is unfair for neighbourhood watches and CPF patrollers to use their resources to fight the crime crisis in communities.