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House robberies, drug and alcohol abuse and a general lawlessness were just some of the things that made the Walmer Township community stand up and work to actively fight the scourge of crime in the area.

This through a collaborative, community-driven crime prevention initiative in partnership with Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s (NMMU) Community Development Unit, which was launched at the Walmer High School yesterday.

The three-year University-community engagement project is primarily aimed at reducing the rampant crime in the area and equipping the people of Walmer Township to build a more secure and socially cohesive community.

Through a multi-disciplinary approach, the project aims to reduce crime by tackling critical social and/or community development needs, which were identified by the community as crime inducers during the various meetings leading up to the project launch.

These include poverty and unemployment, policing inefficiencies, lack of coordination between the various government departments and non-profit organisations working in the area and shebeens – particularly illegal establishments – that operate outside of legal operating hours and sell alcohol to underage patrons.

NMMU’s Director in the Engagement Office Prof George de Lange said the project will be spearheaded by a Steering Committee made up of representatives from the different zones in the township and overseen by a seven-member project oversight committee that includes University representatives.

“The University has always been involved in various projects in the Walmer Township – whether it’s the Health or Education faculty students doing work here. A lot of research has been done in the area, but often there is no coming back once that is done,” he said.

“We felt the university should give something meaningful back to the community. To be able to do that and work with the community, we needed a structure on the ground because we found that there were a lot of organisations working in the area but in silos.

“A steering committee was set up to implement this project at the ground level, with the University providing some seed funding, professional expertise and capacity-building to aid and support existing crime prevention structures.”

The project is one of 17 community engagement projects funded by the University this year, and was welcomed by the community at the launch. Every year, the University provides seed funding to a range of engagement projects via its Engagement Advancement Fund managed by its Engagement Office.

Community leader Mthuthuzeli “Rasta” Hombile said the project was one that everybody in Walmer Township needed to embrace and take responsibility for.

“When this opportunity came up, we just had to be part of it. There have been many programmes in the area around community development but they didn’t speak to each other,” he said.

“So we decided on a project that involves community leaders and multiple stakeholders and NMMU’s Community Development Unit (CDU). After engaging with the community through a series of consultative workshops lead by Ms Debbie Mattheus of the CDU, crime was identified as the biggest problem that needs serious attention.

“So we would like to see everybody get on board and nurture this project. Much like the saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’, let’s make this project the child that we all need to help see growing up.”

Prof de Lange said the University had identified a number of organisations that could potentially be involved in the project, with the aim of approaching them as time goes.

“This is a transdisciplinary project, so we look at how our students can work with the relevant departments or organisations to assist. For example, if we have Famsa working here, we look at how our social development students can support the programme or how our Street Law Programme can be involved. So from the University’s side, we have been able to identify who could be involved in the project,” he said.

“However, and I need to emphasise this, crucial to this project is having the community driving the project and taking ownership and they must feel that everybody has a responsibility to work with this project.”

Contact information
Ms Zandile Mbabela
Media Manager
Tel: 0415042777