Taking back their township
New Brighton neighbourhood watch patrols making a difference in fight against criminals
Wrapping his scarf tightly around his neck, Velile Mfunda stares into the distance where the sun has begun to rise.
Mfunda, 73, is a respected elder in the community and one of the older members of the Siyakhathala Community Forum – a neighbourhood watch patrol in New Brighton.
He braves the chilly weather every morning to walk with about 15 others along New Brighton’s most dangerous streets to safeguard the community.
This selfless task means the men and women of the patrol must wake up in the cold while most others are still snug and warm in their beds.
They ensure women and children feel more comfortable while waiting for public transport in the mornings and evenings.
When a Herald team joined the group on two mornings, the sun started rising before 7am, with most of the Bay’s oldest township’s people rushing to get to work and school.
With whistles and batons in hand, forum members start their walk at 5am for about five kilometres covering the high-crime areas and spending time patrolling the corner of Ngesi Street and Ntshekisa Road.
Residents wait for public transport on this corner which is now synonymous with robberies – especially before daybreak and in the evenings when people return from work.
The streets are ominously quiet, with only a handful of houses’ lights turned on.
The community starts coming alive after 6am.
The forum was one of a number of community projects to receive sponsored bibs in a campaign rolled out last month and supported by Coca-Cola South Africa. Chairman Mncedisi Mvinjelwa, 45, said the forum had been started about two months ago.
“We are dedicated, committed and passionate about ensuring that the people in our area feel safer and are taken care of, especially in the mornings when these criminals cause havoc.
“Mendi Square is a hotspot for smash-and-grabs and since we have been here this has happened less. We are trying to make it a safer place and we are able to achieve this with the help of the police and traffic officials who do regular patrols.”Mendi Road, where the group come together to start their patrols, is considered one of the most dangerous streets in the township as there are several exit and entrance points which make it easier for robberies to take place.
“We want to reclaim the glory of Blawa [New Brighton] because we love our kasi [township] and our people. We need to promote social harmony again,” he said.
In the past two months, the group have experienced a few robberies and were able to deter potential robberies with their visibility in the streets.
Former Ward 14 councillor and high school teacher Vuyani Dyantyi, 54, who is a part of the patrols, said their presence had proven effective.
“People are more comfortable with us around – knowing that you are a little safer standing in the dark of the night at the bus stop on your way to work with a lesser chance of being robbed is why we do this.
“We wake up this early for the benefit of our people. Mendi is a dangerous street and with us around, patrolling the area, children and women will no longer be targets.”
As the group make their way daily on these patrols, there is jovial chatter among them.
They end their walk patrolling around Sheyakulati Square near the New Brighton SPAR, another hotspot for crime.
Mfunda said: “We are here every day, helping our community and keeping the criminals away.
“We are not scared of anyone and the risk they pose because this is our community and we need to take it back.
“When we spoke to the police, they confirmed that the spate of crime had decreased.”
Ntando Adams, 14, who was on her way to school, said the neighbourhood patrol made her feel safer when waiting for transport.
“Before they started I could not walk to SPAR or anywhere around this area alone, but now I feel much safer doing so,” she said...