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What can you do to fight crime? Criminals are smart, so we need to be smarter. With that in mind, business leaders, residents, government officials and civil society have pledged to work together to root out crime in Nelson Mandela Bay.

The plan – to be championed by the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber – was not based on talkshops but rather on a blueprint, budgets, a task team and active citizens, chamber CEO Nomkhita Mona said on Thursday.

Anti-crime activist Yusuf Abramjee said these were pivotal to a successful campaign.

“If we are going to wait for the police to make South Africa a safer country, we are doomed,” he said.

“We have to change our mindset because we can sit here and point fingers at the police, the mayor and the government, but we can only win this war if we take a stand and become active citizens and play our roles in our communities.”

The action plan – and a working committee to drive the project – was announced at a breakfast meeting at the Nelson Mandela University Business School on Thursday.

Many of those attending spoke about the sophistication of criminals, their street smarts and how the public had to be smarter and harness technology in the fight against crime.

Mona said an anti-crime committee had been established as part of the How to Build a City series of dialogues – a partnership between the chamber, Nelson Mandela University and The Herald that was aimed at finding practical ways to develop the metro.

She said a working group of about 15 members was being set up to combat the rampant crime in the city.

“From the breakfast, we identified and invited some of the stakeholders we thought could add value to the working group and, secondly, we tried to involve a broad range of stakeholders so that we’re not talking to the same people,” Mona said.

In terms of a working plan, it had been established during the meeting that there was an existing safety and security master plan drafted by the municipality that could be reviewed and used together with the university’s campus safety plan as a blueprint.

“It will only be after our second meeting that we will know where to start,” she said.

They would also have a better idea of how much money was needed and could then devise strategies to raise funds.

NMU deputy vice-chancellor Lebogang Hashatse said it was important for the university to collaborate with external stakeholders to fight crime in the metro and on campus.

“If countries like Rwanda can overcome genocide, we can overcome crime – but that will require a lot of work, and where we come in as a university is starting off with [identifying] what it is that we as a university want to do.”

He said crime prevented cities from growing and this needed to be addressed.

Hashatse said the university was already working with the Summerstrand Community Forum and Missionvale community members, and had recently joined the Special Rates Area in Central for the university’s Bird Street campus.

Abramjee encouraged business, academia and civil society to take action to transform the areas in which they lived, and the greater South Africa.

“Thuma Mina will not work without you and me,” he said.

Abramjee suggested additional strategies to include in the committee’s plan of action. These included:

● Re-establishment of street committees that would work closely with the police;

● Establishment of an effective communication policy when it came to municipal officials;

● A strategy to recruit residents so they would form part of the plan; and

● Using technology to fight crime.

With regard to technology, he referred to apps such as the Namola crime-response app and other tech inventions.

“Criminals in South Africa are very innovative and if we could just use their creativity in a productive way, we can create a better South Africa because these people just don’t stop,” Abramjee said.

He said the Namola app worked at the press of a button. Once the alert button is pushed, the app – available for Android and iOS smartphones – makes use of your phone’s built-in GPS to identify the closest response vehicle to your location and direct it to you.

The company also recently launched Namola Plus – a tracking device that can be attached to your car keys or put in your pocket so that when a criminal takes your phone, you can press the button on the device for two seconds and the Namola team will call the device, track you and alert and dispatch emergency services.

Mandy Miller Attorneys director Mandy Miller said she would be joining the committee and would contribute her expertise, which included understanding crime from the perpetrator’s viewpoint.

“From the perspective of a criminal attorney who has seen and learnt a lot from clients about why they commit the crimes they do, I would like to suggest that we begin to think like criminals to [reduce] crime in our communities.

“It’s no use for us to go into this plan of action with no knowledge of [the perpetrators’ mindset],” she said.

Bay pastor and businessman Sabelo Stuurman called for prayer to be used as a tool to fight crime in communities.

Stuurman highlighted the influence of crime on the city’s youth, with primary and high school boys being initiated into the skhothane culture of flashy spending on expensive clothing that often included consuming alcohol and drugs.

“There is a group of young children who call themselves izkhothane, who travel to the Boardwalk and a nearby garage to drink and do drugs,” he said.


Mona said the committee would keep the public informed on its progress.

This article appeared in The Herlad of 30 August 2019 written by
Zamandulo Malonde



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