Soaring crime levels threaten Nelson Mandela Bay’s stability

The Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber has been inundated with calls from deeply concerned industry leaders who are losing millions of rand due to highly co-ordinated robberies at their premises and rampant attacks on their mobile properties
The Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber has been inundated with calls from deeply concerned industry leaders who are losing millions of rand due to highly co-ordinated robberies at their premises and rampant attacks on their mobile properties
Image: 123RF/Paul Fleet

Nelson Mandela Bay is under siege.

Our beloved city is losing its tag as the friendly city as violent crime soars.

The Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber has been inundated with calls from concerned industry leaders who are losing millions due to co-ordinated robberies at their premises and attacks on their mobile properties.

There has been a spate of robberies on delivery trucks and these have become common in certain parts of the Bay, to the extent they have been flagged as hotspots.

The situation is even dire for small businesses that are often unable to beef up their security.

 In some communities, crime has become so rife that people are taking the law into their own hands.

Recently, a few cases of necklacing in Motherwell were reported after a spate of break-ins and the police allegedly failing to address the matter even after receiving numerous calls from concerned residents.

The situation could get worse with the proposed budget cut for visible policing — considered the backbone of proactive and community centred policing.

On May 20, police minister Bheki Cele announced his department’s expenditure in the medium term would decrease from R99.6bn in 2020/2021 to R97.1bn in 2023/2024.

The cut denies the country a crucial opportunity to shift the ground towards aggressively strengthening its police force.

The announcement comes after 24 police officers were killed in a space of three months in 2021.

The figure points to a deepening problem of criminals heavily arming themselves as a declaration of war against law enforcement agencies and citizens.

The concept of safety in an urban environment transcends people’s safety, the sustainability of urban development and the integrity of investments — it invokes access to public spaces, freedom of movement and unencumbered access to activities that fulfil one’s life.

It is for this reason that communities and businesses form crime prevention forums to augment their security measures.

Companies are spending millions on sophisticated security equipment but this does not deter criminals. 

.A few years ago the municipality enlisted the services of a security protection company to install cameras in targeted areas, especially in the CBD.

These assisted the police to respond quickly to incidents of crime.

Today, after spending millions on the project, not one of the cameras is working following a fallout between the municipality and the service provider over   contractual disagreements.

The state of lawlessness in the metro demands prudent leadership to resolve the impasse and pave the way for the reinstatement of the cameras.

We have also noted with great concern increased reports on the rampant destruction of infrastructure.

What is more alarming is the lack of clear solutions proposed by the municipality to halt this.

Many inquiries have been about the continued loss of electricity supply in the past six weeks.

This has caused massive business interruptions and multimillion rand losses.

Some manufacturers have had to face stiff penalties for missing international delivery deadlines.

This comes at a time numerous businesses have closed due to the impact of the pandemic.

While the city has ageing infrastructure, vandalism and theft from municipal substations have worsened the situation.

Ease of doing business has been a fundamental issue of concern for some time and vandalism can only worsen the business environment.

The manifestation of crime is primarily driven by socio-economic factors that negatively impact the wellbeing of residents and the local economy.

Underlying root causes of crime and violence, such as rising unemployment, poverty, inequality and lack of social cohesion, are not sufficiently addressed.

Urban environments are fertile grounds for criminal activities as economic activities are concentrated here.

Safety challenges impose severe limitations on a city’s growth and development, including quality of life for residents.

It also threatens investment.

A co-ordinated strategy from all stakeholders such as the SAPS, political leadership, local industry and communities working in unison is needed.

The strategy should be informed by an in-depth study of the metro’s unique context.

The strategy can be reviewed progressively to ascertain its impact.

A capable police force trained in high-density urban policing through physical patrols in problematic areas is a must.

The metro is losing the battle against crime and teetering on a slippery slope.

In SA, safety and security features prominently in the Vision 2030 of the National Development Plan (NDP).

But for all these well-thought-out policies, some of the building blocks are uncoordinated and fragmented.

This creates barriers for policy implementation.

The municipality should be commended for establishing a metro police force in 2017.

However, there are still inefficiencies which can be attributed to an insufficient workforce on the ground.

Without a dedicated budget and full support from the national and provincial government, we may as well park this idea.

Crime needs to be nipped in the bud through a multifaceted approach.

We need to develop an all-encompassing crime-fighting strategy to reclaim our city from criminal elements.

We need all hands on deck!

Prince Matonsi is operations manager of the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber

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