In its efforts to allow neighbourhood watches and other safety structures to operate during the lockdown period, the civil rights organisation AfriForum wrote to Bheki Cele, the Minister of Police, to request an urgent meeting with him. The organisation also launched an online petition to enlist public support.
In its letter, AfriForum emphasises the important and vital role that neighbourhood, farm and plot watches, and other similar safety structures play in their respective communities. The letter also highlights various ways in which the Minister could possibly utilise these structures within the framework of the law. The petition will serve to prove public support for the reactivation of neighbourhood watches and other safety structures during the lockdown period and will aid in convincing government of the necessity thereof.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought challenges for everyone, but we truly believe that AfriForum’s neighbourhood watches and other safety structures can provide government and our communities with much needed support in these difficult and trying times. Our neighbourhood watch members are well trained and have in many cases longstanding relationships with local law enforcement and emergency services. They know their communities and can effectively undertake certain tasks, thereby freeing up much needed capacity which various role-players lack.” says Ian Cameron, Head of Community Safety at AfriForum.
AfriForum believes that, with sufficient guidelines and instructions from government, neighbourhood watches and their members will be able to operate in a manner that does not pose a threat of spreading the coronavirus. Furthermore, these guidelines will prevent neighbourhood watch members from putting themselves in danger whilst trying to serve their communities.
“Government has already indicated that the impact of the COVID-19 crisis will be felt for months to come. Various police stations have already been closed due to infections and various police and army officials have already contracted the virus. We would much rather establish a framework in collaboration with the Minister, that will allow our structures to add to the existing capacity. The day may come when the Minister will need to replace lost capacity and then it might be too late,” says Cameron.
AfriForum encourages members of the public to sign the petition at the following link: