Preventing crime starts at home, believes Lieutenant-Colonel Martins Memani, head of Operational Support at the Grahamstown Police Station.
Memani and two colleagues were addressing residents in Vukani recently, at a meeting organised by Ward 13 Councillor Thembakazi Seyisi.
“People are abusing alcohol and there are assaults and stabbing,” Memani said. “We come after the damage has been done.”
He said instead, the community itself should stop the crime at its source.
“We must start sweeping at our homes first before we go outside. The people who make crime are staying in the community with us,” Memani said. “The people who sell drugs are staying with us. The people who open taverns until the next day are in the community.
“We must bring back humanity, dignity, respect,” Memani said. “It is a sin to see young girls being in the road at 2am.”
Seyisi asked Memani why, when the police were called, they didn’t arrive quickly.
“And when you ask on the phone whom am I talking to? they ignore you and instead ask what your problem is. We must know which police can assist us here in Vukani, Colonel,” Seyisi said.
Explaining that there often weren’t enough officers available, Memani said that on duty at a given time there might be as few as five police officers to serve the entire town.
“Some people call the police and when we arrive, you see a woman bleeding, having been beaten by her partner.
“When the police arrive, she’ll say, ‘No, he has said sorry so we’ve solved the problem.
“Some call and when we arrive, she’ll say she needs us to fetch her clothes from her husband. So those kinds of cases, they delay us in important matters – especially on pay days.”
Memani said police and residents should work together to improve responses and reporting.
One community member asked, “Someone does a very bad thing to the community and he gets arrested, but the next day that person is out while the victim is still in pain. Why?”
“As police we are controlled by the law,” Memani said. “It is the court who decides, not us. The law of South Africa says everyone has the right to apply for bail and you are not guilty until you are found guilty by the court.”
One community member asked, “If you fight with someone and he goes to your home and he or she does not find you and instead breaks all your doors and windows, what should you do?
Seyisi said, “The street committee is to solve those kinds of problems of the people in that street,” Seyisi said.
Resident Mzukisi Mali said, “We must be truthful. When your child is wrong, you hide it. When it happens at home, you hide it. It is our duty to face the problems of the area, as the street committee.
Seyisi touched on government projects in the area that required temporary staff.
“Everyone is hungry,” she said. “Anyone who qualifies or is capable to work can get the opportunity to work regardless of their age group.”
However, she clarified that she did not make decisions about who was employed.
“When there is something I call the ward committee and tell them,” she said. “They call the street committee and the street committee calls a meeting and selects the people, not me.
“I am selected by the people and I work for everyone, no matter what party you are from.”
- Lindani Donyeli is a citizen reporter who lives in Vukani.