top of page
  • Writer's picturePedi

How Neighborhood Watch Volunteers are Transforming Philippi

In 2019, Nyanga police station had reported, once again, the highest number of murders in South Africa, and residents thought their township would remain the "murder capital of the country."


Yet barely a year later, Nyanga's murder rate had dropped by 36%, and Delft had replaced it at the top of the Murders: Top 30 Police Stations list. This year's statistics offer even more reasons to wonder: Has there been a turnaround in Nyanga's crime situation?


Next-door to Nyanga is the Browns Farm area in Philippi, where a decline in crime is happening just like in Nyanga and for the same reason: because of the growing number of volunteers who join a local Neighborhood Watch and patrol the streets to ensure the safety of their community.


The first Neighborhood Watch in Browns Farm – called Fireburn, now with 80 members – started in March 2020. Soon after, another four branches were launched: Kwakhanya, Siyazama, Masiqhame, and Sisithemba. Altogether, there are now nearly 500 volunteers engaged in Neighborhood Watch patrols.


Members of Masiqhame Neighborhood Watch gather for their night shift. (17:30, 14 June 2021)
 

"Before the Neighborhood Watch started, we were easy victims of crime. We weren't comfortable sending our kids to the shops and feared for their lives. So we appreciate what the patrols are doing because crime has decreased."

Zukelwa Baliso, resident of Browns Farm

 

Melikhaya Gadeni, secretary of Sector 4 Community Policing Forum, says that the idea of starting the Neighborhood Watch initiative is part of their strategy for policing Browns Farm. In the face of prevalent crime in the area, they sometimes doubt if they can really win in this war for the community's wellbeing – yet because of the Neighborhood Watch, the situation is slowly turning around for the better.


Neighborhood Watch members standing guard outside a shop on Ngulube Street to make  sure shoppers are safe. (18:15, 14 June 2021)
 

"We were getting robbed on our way to work or returning home, but since the start of the Neighborhood Watch we feel safe because the thugs know the patrols will deal with them if they engage in criminal activities."

Lusindiso Ntanjana, resident of Browns Farm

 

All branches of Browns Farm Neighborhood Watch operate two daily shifts. Morning and evening patrols (5-9 am; 5-9 pm) cover the residential areas and also Junxion Mall; and because members don't get paid for their service, daytime patrols (9 am-5 pm) only happen on weekends.


Residents can now enjoy free wifi from a Somali shop, without concern for cellphone theft. (19:00, 14 June 2021)
 

"We notice that crime has decreased and are glad that our effort to keep our community safe is paying off. But it's dangerous because we have invaded the criminals' spaces and stopped their activities, so now we are a target."

Abide Bhukwana, Neighborhood Watch member

 

Standing watch next to a street vendor at the Village Four. (18:30, 14 June 2021)
 

"Street vendors are now free to operate until late, because they know there are patrol members around protecting them."

Lusindiso Ntanjana, resident of Browns Farm

 

To join Neighborhood Watch, a security clearance is needed that's facilitated by the Community Policing Forum (CPF) and that involves registration, fingerprinting, and criminal background checks. "We have a good working relationship with both SAPS and Law Enforcement," says CPF secretary Melikhaya Gadeni; and he applauds Alderman JP Smith, the City’s Mayco Member for Safety and Security, for his support of Neighborhood Watch operations.


Community Policing Forum members Mandla Wonxa (head of safety and security), Melikhaya Gadeni (secretary), and Anele Madondile (chairperson).
 

"I am worried about the safety of our patrollers, that’s why each member has the direct line numbers of the command centers at Browns Farm and Nyanga Police Station, where they know how to share sensitive information without any leaks occurring. So far it's been working well."

Melikhaya Gadeni, CPF secretary

 

The Neighborhood Watch initiative in Browns Farm is a shining example of how ordinary citizens can come together to make their community safer and more secure. With crime rates decreasing and residents regaining a sense of security, it's clear that these volunteers are true heroes, making a significant impact on the lives of those they protect.


As the Neighborhood Watch continues to grow, their positive influence on Philippi and neighboring areas is likely to expand even further, bringing hope and safety to more South African communities.



Story and photos by Buziwe Nocuze.

Tags:

13 views0 comments

Comments


bottom of page