Last week, Grocott’s Mail investigated the causes of holiday crime in Grahamstown. It was confirmed that crime does increase over the festive season as a result of increased socioeconomic pressures, unemployment, alcohol and drug use, and a smaller town population. This week, Grocott’s talks solutions to this crime, not just during December and January but year around. The overall safety and well-being of Grahamstown citizens is of critical importance to the town’s success.
Walking down New Street one might have noticed a peculiar looking poster. “Beware! Lumnkela! Zero Crime No Littering! Ukwaphula U Mthetho”. The top of the poster informs that there is “CCTV 24/7”. The poster is sponsored by Makana Revive!, a community funded initiative spearheaded by Ron Weissenberg, Chairperson of Micronized Ltd SA.
Weissenberg and others had been working towards implementing Makana Revive! for several months. These posters are the first visible asset of this hard work. By the beginning of the 2018 academic year, Weissenberg hopes to have these cameras all over the CBD.
Weissenberg told Grocott’s Mail that Makana Revive! is about “privatising community based solutions to the failings of the municipality”. The 24/7 CCTV cameras at the intersection of New and Somerset Street serve as a way to curb crime and harassment in the area. Because the cameras are monitored privately, SAPS is taken out of the picture. Weissenberg said SAPS is suffering from “incredibly weak leadership on a local and provincial level”, which in turns severely limits their service delivery. Community initiatives like Makana Revive! serve as a way to directly address these institutional failures.
Tim Bull and Phil Machanick of the Grahamstown Residents’ Association said that the GRA stands behind Makana Revive! and hopes to see positive change on the streets and within municipal management as a result.
Machanick said, “Stabilising the municipality’s management particularly finances and HR should have a beneficial effect on reducing one of the key drivers of crime, no prospect of employment.
“Until we can bring road repair and failing infrastructure under control, it is hard to see how anyone will invest in job-creating enterprises here. This is one of the reasons that GRA has joined in pressures on the mayor and provincial government to appoint a turnaround specialist manager.”
Bull said should the municipality reallocate one percent of its overall budget to infrastructure, positive improvements would be possible. “It can’t be done without Makana,” he said.
Though the municipality is a pressing issue, it cannot take the blame for all of Grahamstown’s problems. Residents must consider thoughtful engagement and communication as a vital tactic to combat crime. At the end of the day it is easy to point fingers at Makana, but if Grahamstown wishes to see progress anytime soon, there needs to be more direct community engagement. Bull suggested that residents can “help people by helping other people”.
Hi-Tec Response Manager Kenny Knoetze said that Hi-Tec was working on helping smaller as well as foreign businesses as a priority. Remembering the xenophobic attacks of 2015 targeting foreign businesses, Hi-Tec’s assistance is greatly welcomed. Knoetze stated that Hi-Tec is very busy in the township areas during December and January, mostly due to armed robberies as well as residential and school break-ins.
Bull added that there is a heightened sense of fear in Grahamstown, and that the community’s overall psychology needed to be positively changed. A look of “dereliction” adds to this, he said. Fixing the town’s aesthetics could drastically reduce feelings of fear.
Though the GRA focuses on Grahamstown’s CBD, Bull highlighted that they wish to expand into Joza. The GRA’s plans for December and January, including community meetings, would be released in due time.
There is no simple solution to Grahamstown’s holiday crime, but community initiatives like Makana Revive! paired with more engagement and conversation can go a long way. The pressure is equally on both the municipality and the community to make Grahamstown a safe and successful place.
For more information on Makana Revive! you can contact the GRA at grahamstownresidentsassociation.co.za