Rocklands watch making the difference

Despite having limited funding and resources, Mitchell’s Plain organisations are dedicating their time and efforts to making a change in their community. As we mark the 40th anniversary of this “city within a city”, KAYLYNN PALM looks at the community organisations that mobilise residents to make a difference in their neighbourhoods…

With their bright green jackets, radios – and passion – Rocklands Community Neighbourhood Watch has been patrolling the streets since 1980. They were the first neighbourhood watch group to be established in Mitchell’s Plain.

In 1992 the watch was renamed Rocklands Community Neighbourhood Watch Zone, focusing its effort on the Rocklands area only.

Chairperson Cedrick Daniels has been part of the structure since 1992.

Mr Daniels said there had been achievements and challenges throughout the years.

Mitchell’s Plain has grown and with this has come a resultant increase in crime.

“We used to have more than 100 members working hard fighting crime as it increased over the years. Sadly members have left due to various reasons but we appreciate their services,” he said.

Ebrahim Slinger, who has been a member of the Rocklands Community Neighbourhood Watch Zone since 2002, said there have been many changes in the neighbourhood watch structures. “Before we went out in numbers, working in other parts of Mitchell’s Plain. When sector policing was introduced, people (dropped out). The introduction of street committees and block committees made people rethink joining the neighbourhood watch. They would think that it’s not nessary to join the structure. Then, it’s the admin process that makes people despondent, so they don’t join,” said Mr Slinger.

Valerie Moses, controller for the Rocklands Community Neighbourhood Watch Zone, said throughout the years the structure has had many successes in its fight against crime.

“Our phone rings day and night. We hardly sleep. In the cold and sunny weather we out doing patrols, trying our best to make our streets safer. We work to the police recovering firearms and drugs.

“When there is a murder, accident or shooting, we are the people who are at the scene making sure that people do not tamper with evidence and controlling the crowd before the police arrive. We have people threatening us and being rude with us, but we will continue our volunteer services with joy,” said Ms Moses.

According to the Department of Social Development, the Afrikaanse Christelike Vroue Vereeniging (ACVV) in Westridge is the oldest organisation on its database. Established in 1904, it is the oldest welfare organisation in South Africa, with its Mitchell’s Plain branch having opened its doors in December 1998. In addition to this one, there are 114 branches registered as individual NPOs across the country.

Regional consultant at the ACVV in Westridge, Patricia Britz-Smith, said the organisation used to have a crèche on the premises but had to close it due to financial restraints. The organisation currently focuses on child protection and renders services to families who are in need.

Ms Britz-Smith said the aim of the organisation is to protect vulnerable children and to create a safe environment in which they can excel to become successful adults.

Esther Lewis, spokesperson for the Department of Social Development, said the department funds 55 NGOs in Mitchell’s Plain which the department works with. Currently the department has invested more than R30 million in Mitchell’s Plain.

Speaking about the history of NGO involvement in Mitchell’s Plain, she said advice offices were very prominent in the early history of the area.

“NGOs are our partners in implementing legislative mandates. They play a vital role in communities such as Mitchell’s Plan, as they extend the scale and reach of services. We will continue assisting NGOs in professionalising the services by offering training, and also building on our relationships with our partners,” said MEC for Social Development, Albert Fritz.

Ms Lewis said in April 2010 new legislation such as the Children’s Act and the Older Person’s Act was promulgated to ensure compliance and good governance by organisations which work with children, older persons, and matters relating to substance abuse

“Statutory processes need to be followed in order to protect the rights and care of the beneficiaries. There is a stronger emphasis on good governance and financial accountability of NGOs towards government as a funder in accordance with the Public Finance Management Act,” said Ms Lewis.

Asked about the growth of this sector, Ms Lewis said the impact of NGOs, in terms of the service they provide, has seen significant growth.

“There are also more NGOs that the department funds and it also has its own social workers doing interventions in Mitchell’s Plain,” she said.