On the 15th of February Africa Unite in partnership with the Nyanga South African Police Service (SAPS), Community Police Forum (CPF) and Nyanga community held a community dialogue at Zolani Centre in Nyanga. This community dialogue was a follow up of in a series of dialogues held in Nyanga initiated by Africa Unite to change the image of Nyanga as the murder capital of South Africa. During the previous dialogues held regarding the crime in the area, one of the issues raised by the community was crime committed by youth on parole. The reality is that often they are arrested and within a few weeks they are out.
The community decided that the Correctional Services and the Department of Justice must be invited to the next dialogue to explain how the parole system works. More than 300 people gathered at the venue to listen attentively to the different speakers of the day.
Ward Councillor Templeton Mgxekeni first welcomed everyone and introduced the dialogue before the Brigadier M M Manci. (Station Commander) of Nyanga SAPS gave an overview of the reality and the statistics of the crime situation in Nyanga. Mr Nkongolo, the director from Africa Unite spoke about Africa Unite’s community conflict mediation, where youth are trained to foster a culture a peace in their communities. These dialogues are being held in other crime affected areas of Cape Town (Delft and Hanover Park).
Mr Billy Ncobo from the Correctional Service spoke in length on how the parole system works and what criteria is used before releasing a person. He also emphasised that the community members can apply to be part of the parole board. He concluded in that his department is available to assist those people who still have challenges in these regards.
Guest speaker of the day Deputy, Minister of Police Ms Makhotso Magdeline Sotyu started by thanking the organisers of the event for inviting her to this gathering. She mentioned that her department is ready to support the initiatives that are geared towards crime prevention.
She highlighted that Nyanga is one of the areas of national concern due to high crime rates and presented this as the reason why the President Jacob Zuma visited the area the day before the dialogue. She also insisted that this was not a government initiated gathering (imbizo) but a dialogue initiated by the community members themselves. She added that she was there to hear the various challenges and solutions proposed by the community. In addition, any issues which were not related to her department, she would take them to the relevant departments.
Mr Makasi chairperson of the Nyanga Community Police Forum opened the floor for questions, responses, and comments from the audience. This process was facilitated by Nomsa Somdaka of Africa Unite. The community was happy to see the deputy minister of police in this dialogue and many questions were asked to the different speakers. Below are some of the questions and concerns raised:
- There are many young people who are struggling to get a job due to their outstanding criminal records although they have transformed. In addition, there are further concerns regarding the struggle of youth with criminal records
- There are many cases where files cannot be found making it difficult for the victims to follow up their cases. Often there are missing files or cases are not followed up or followed through.
- The detectives do not give feedback or update the progress of the cases to the victims. Often community members see the accused killer or rapist back in the community making it more difficult and unsafe for the victims.
- Police are very slow to respond to cases. For example, a case was sited that another person died less than 500 meters from the station but the police did not arrive until a few hours later
- Nyanga Police station shares the premises with a bottle store which sells alcohol to unlicensed dispensaries. (shebeens)
- The community also asked how the parole board is chosen
- There is a high level of unemployment in the area amongst the youth and lack of activities for them which drives many of them to join criminal activities
The deputy minister admitted that there are some challenges at the police station, however some of these are caused by vandalism of the police cars by the community making it difficult for them to respond on time. She also mentioned that the detectives must send regular update messages to the victims on their cases. Furthermore, she mentioned that there is a lack of parenting skills, as some of the parents neglect their children and give responsibility to the schools alone. She said that a good education starts at home. Regarding criminal records, she mentioned that her office can be contacted to assist the youth who want their records cleaned. To conclude the dialogue councillor Ms Sharon Manata thanked the organisers, the police and the deputy minister for being part of this dialogue.
Following this dialogue on the 16th of February Africa Unite met with the CPF chairperson to develop an action plan on the various questions and concerns raised by the community during the dialogue. After a long fruitful discussion, the following actions were taken:
- Africa Unite will partner with the CPF in their safer schools programme by introducing Africa Unite school clubs at Mandela High School
- A place was earmarked in the area for a possibility of establishing a vocational training centre for youth in the area to enhance their skills and possibilities for employment
- Africa Unite will partner with the CPF to see if they can revive the life skills programme to boost the youth self-esteem in acquiring jobs
- There is a City of Cape Town facility in the area not being used which can be used by detectives as it can make it easy for the victim to access and also for the detectives to work in a professional manner
- Africa Unite and CPF will lobby with relevant authorities to either remove the bottle store in expanding the Nyanga police station or they can build a second story to have more services. In such an environment, the station can have its sexual offence unit contrary to the current station where they must go to Mitchells Plein to report.
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