Patrols give Masi an edge over crime

One year ago, Masiphumelele was in the grip of vigilantism and riots against the police.

For much of 2015, angry residents had meted out justice on anyone suspected of being involved in crime, as frustration flared over a lack of policing in the neighbourhood.

Safety and Security MEC Dan Plato called for calm repeatedly as residents frequently turned on the police.

Towards the end of 2015, no fewer than nine people died in vigilante attacks in the township.

Fast forward a year and peace has, to a large extent, returned to Masiphumelele, thanks to improved relations with the police as well as community-led initiatives, not least of which has been recent night patrols.

Community leader Tshepo Moletsane estimates crime has dropped 30 percent since night patrols started two months ago.

“Many people are robbed in the evening, so we decided to patrol between 10pm and midnight. We have also been patrolling to establish which shebeens are legal and which shebeens are not,” he said.

“What is important is that we are working with the police now. The response from the community has been very positive. That’s why I think the vigilantism we saw last year is not happening anymore.”

A lot of people had been involved with the night patrols when they started, but those numbers had tapered off slightly.

“We are currently a group of about 30 people.

“But I also think our group has gotten smaller because a lot of people have gone to visit their families in the Eastern Cape over the holidays.”

The patrollers work with the police, helping them to spot problems in the community.

“We cannot make arrests ourselves, so we are working with them so that the proper processes take place,” said Mr Moletsane.

The group hopes to lay the groundwork to establish a formal community police forum and neighbourhood watch in Masiphumelele.

“This is what Masi has been lacking. We want these to be sustainable, accountable structures working with the police.”

Fellow patrolman and community leader, Zolani Sohuma ,believes it’s the group’s ability to be “everywhere at once” that is curbing crime.

“Before, you had people walking up and down the streets late at night, selling drugs or waiting to mug someone. Now, with so many of us involved, we are everywhere,” he said.

“We are present in the streets and will even approach people who are playing their music too loudly.

“If we see someone walking around after 10pm, we ask them what they are doing in the streets. It’s been our experience that this is the time when we have the most stabbings or pick-pocketing.”

Residents, he said, now felt like there was someone looking out for them on the streets.

Mr Plato praised the patrollers’ efforts and thanked them for working closely with the police. All community-led actions, he stressed, had to be done “within the confines of the law” and there was “no space in any community” for vigilante crime.

He encouraged the community to form a partnership with the Department of Community Safety, which, he said, was “a willing partner” and could accredit neighbourhood watches.

“We believe safety is everyone’s responsibility, and all the leaders of Masiphumelele are urged to unite as safety leaders and work as closely as possible to support safety in the community.”

The Echo sent questions to Muizenberg and Ocean View police but did not get a response by the time this edition went to print.