A small group of unarmed women patrol the streets of a neighbourhood where the sound of gunshots rings out at night. A team gathers in the make-shift corrugated iron structure that is home to the ‘boardroom’ where they plan both safety and sports activities for their community. Mothers gather to pray at the front fence of their local primary school.
The same group of community members who volunteer daily at a local soup kitchen, wake up at the crack of dawn to walk with the neighbourhood’s children as they make their way to school. An entrepreneur installs second-hand lights at his business premises, hoping that a well-lit area at night will prevent criminals from stealing his stock.
These are true stories behind the statistics in South Africa. These are the on-the-ground heroes who understand what it means to be resilient and resourceful. These are our partners in co-creating safer places.
Community safety lies at the very heart of the overall well-being of our towns and neighbourhoods. It’s a fundamental human need – to feel safe in your home, street, school or business. Secure communities are also more investor-friendly, mitigating the risks associated with crime, instability and natural disasters – and where there is investment, there is economic growth and the possibility of improved quality of life. Where there is safety, there is hope.
Crime, violence and gangsterism go hand-in-hand with socio-economic disparities – a reality which emerges time and again when we start working on the ground in communities across the country. At the very first DNA mapping workshops where we start exploring the opportunities and challenges facing towns, community safety emerges as a key pain point.
For this reason, Community Safety is one of the key programmes that Ranyaka implements under the banner of the national Nedbank Proud of my Town (PoMT) initiative. The programme’s main focus areas are general crime prevention, violence prevention and disaster management.
Start with a plan
This is not an issue that any single government body, NGO or funder can resolve. It demands a big-picture approach and the understanding that crime is a complex challenge that will require a multi-faceted approach and plan.
Ranyaka’s four-pillar community safety plan that forms the foundation of the PoMT community safety programme entails the following:
1. Organising for collaboration: Gathering the right people around a table to understand where everyone fits into the picture is key to implementing a multi-layered approach to tackling community safety. Our teams works with SAPS, Community Policing Forums (CPFs), community structures such as Neighbourhood Watches, Community Safety Forums, as well as citizen-led safety initiatives across South Africa.
2. Understanding the landscape: Ranyaka harnesses urban planning and geo-referencing capabilities to work with communities to map the types of crime and violence in their areas. These mapping exercises, which also include community surveys, provide crucial information that informs interventions, as well as the types of response that are required in each of these areas. During this stage, we work with local stakeholders to draw up Safety Zone Plans which include plans for schools, pedestrians, businesses, residential areas, farms, and open spaces.
3. Planning the response: Mapping the different types of crime and violence assists stakeholders and responders to identify roles and types of responses. Not every safety body can or should respond to every type of incident. Response times are critical and need to be agreed upon. Different safety zones also require different types of equipment. Typical equipment requirements include reflective vests, high-quality torches, two-way radios, whistles and cameras. A ‘response’ can also include interventions such as creating safe spaces tailored for victims of gender-based violence where they have access to counseling, resources and self-defense classes.
4. Managing the data: Moving towards better data management allows all role players to make better decisions and review responses – both as individual responders, as well as collectively. Ranyaka is adapting its current management system to deal with data management, reporting and communication of data to the relevant role players.
Co-creating safer places
Whilst supporting community safety has always been a vital part of our community transformation framework, the past year in particular has seen our team intentionally expand and further develop our community safety ‘toolbox’.
In communities across the eight provinces where we work, a growing number of organisations involved in community safety initiatives was reaching out for help. Good people all over the country are doing great work driven by positive intentions. We believe that plugging these heroes into strong networks that function according to strategically designed plans based on solid data will make all the difference.
Our team started working in a number of PoMT communities – facilitating the four-step approach outlined above. As we meet with residents, community safety groups and local law enforcement, we continue to learn and to refine the process – and we are inspired by the courage of those willing to tackle the seemingly insurmountable challenges that their towns face in the form of crime and violence.
Where a solid plan, a plugged-in network, a systematic process and passionate heroes meet, great things can happen.
In the Western Cape, for example, Ranyaka is currently working in the communities of Cloetesville and Klapmuts in Stellenbosch, as well as the town of Darling to introduce the strategy to local role players, assist with the compilation of safety plans and map crime hot spots and the types of crimes committed in these areas. The same process is underway in the townships of Mamelodi and Kathorus in Gauteng.
Building local capacity and resources
Capacity-building is part of the process. During October and November 2023, our team rolled out a community safety programme in Mamelodi township where, during five sessions, participants learned more about law regulations, conflict management, self-defence, first aid and fire safety. The programme concluded with an exercise to map crime hot spots in Mamelodi, with participants working together to explore real solutions. Read the full story here.
A particular highlight in the community safety journey to date is PoMT’s ongoing support of the Lady Hawk Sport and Safety organisation ops room in Lantana, Paarl. By covering the cost of the ops room’s operational costs, PoMT is strengthening local capacity to take positive action to combat crime in their community. Ranyaka also assisted with the registration of Lady Hawk with PSIRA to ensure their compliance with the Private Security Industry Regulation Act. Lady Hawk is now also a registered community safety enterprise that delivers a paid for service to schools.
In Magaliesburg, the PoMT local coordinator collaborated with the Magaliesburg SAPS and Community Policing Forum to arrange a day for the screening of 70 community members, predominantly women and youth, by SAPS. This enabled these community members to serve as block patrollers and to serve at the SAP youth desk in GaMohale township.
On an individual level, self-defence workshops in the townships of Mamelodi and Boitekong equip residents with the confidence and skills to protect themselves when threatened with violence.
Then, in most areas, there is also a great need for equipment. To date, the Nedbank PoMT programme has enabled Ranyaka to donate over 100 items of critical safety and patroller equipment to Community Policing Forums and Neighbourhood Watch groups in the communities of Mamelodi and Magaliesburg (Gauteng), Boitekong (North-West), Paarl and Stellenbosch (Western Cape), Umlazi (KwaZulu-Natal) and Zwide (Eastern Cape).
Restoring safer spaces
Clean, well-maintained areas with good visibility and the right infrastructure make all the difference when it comes to reducing the levels of crime and violence.
In the community of Chicago in Paarl (Western Cape), for example, the PoMT team worked with a local primary school to remove a massive pile of rubble and vegetation that was obstructing line of sight into an area between the school playground and the perimeter fencing. Improving visibility on school properties keep children safer.
In Klapmuts, a community located some 20 minutes’ drive outside Stellenbosch, Ranyaka facilitated the donation and installation of quality fencing for two Early Childhood Development centres – securing the premises to keep learners safe and, at the same time, ensure that these centres comply with ECD regulations.
A series of Fix your Space clean-up and beautification projects in Umlazi township in KwaZulu-Natal has made local parks and pathways more user-friendly. Overgrown vegetation and litter not only affect the visual appeal of such areas; it also invites criminal activity. Ranyaka now works with local entrepreneurs in Umlazi to host community market days in these parks – bringing unused areas to life and creating safer spaces together.
Creating spaces where victims of violence and crime can receive support is part of the journey. In 2022, Ranyaka partnered with the main Nedbank branch, SAPS and, with PoMT support and the involvement of a local NGO that initiated the process, transformed a disused, dilapidated room at the Kayamandi township (Stellenbosch) police station into a safe place for victims of GBV in particular. Read the full story here.
The protection of lives and property against the devastating effects of fires – both in towns and open farmlands – also forms part of Ranyaka’s PoMT-funded community safety programme. Interventions in this area to date have included:
Fire safety training through the hosting of workshops and training sessions that cover topics such as fire safety and prevention, the basics of fire-fighting, fire alarm systems, evacuation procedures, the use of firefighting equipment, first aid for burn wounds, search and rescue, teamwork, the legal aspects of fire safety, veld fires, and backburning in rural and agricultural settings. To date, various aspects of fire-related training has taken place in Magaliesburg, Polokwane, Mamelodi, Paarl and Stellenbosch.
Fire safety advocacy and network-building: The PoMT local coordinator in Magaliesburg champions Ranyaka’s fire safety initiatives. Ryan Marsden holds the position of chairperson of the Rietlaagte FPA, as well as Director of the Gauteng Umbrella Fire Prevention Association (GUPFA). He has also undertaken Community Fire Prevention training on behalf of the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Department of Social Development.
ECD centre safety: As part of our ECD programme, Ranyaka has hosted workshops and training sessions around first aid, health and safety guidelines and fire safety for ECD centres in Mamelodi, Magaliesburg, Paarl and Stellenbosch, with this programme being expanded into the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. ECD centres are also equipped with fire extinguishers, safety signage and first aid kits, staff and children receive basic fire safety training – and a number of wooden structures (e.g. wendy house classrooms) have been painted with intumescent (fire retardant) paint.
Covid-19: During the Covid-19 pandemic, the community safety programme allocated significant resources to the sanitizing of public spaces, particularly in Magaliesburg and Boitekong, as well as the distribution in all PoMT nodes of hand sanitizer and PPE kits.
The ongoing lesson is this: We cannot work alone. No single organisation has all the answers. We need a common agenda. We need to join forces. We need a plan, an over-arching strategy and formalised protocols to translate strategy into practical action. And we need willing hands. One step at a time, we can all do our part to stem the tide of crime and violence in our country, build resilience and create places where we all can flourish in the knowledge that we are safe.
AT A GLANCE
From inception to end July 2023, Ranyaka has managed a total investment of R288,152.28 Community Safety programme – the bulk of which consists of funding by the Nedbank Proud of my Town programme.
Over 100 items donated to CPFs – torches, vests, radios etc.
70 community members screened to supports SAPS as block patrollers in Magaliesburg.
One community safety business established in Paarl, Western Cape.
Multiple Fix your Space projects in parks, pathways and open spaces.
1 ,932 fires fought between 2018 and 2022 (Mogale City Statistics) with PoMT coordinator support
Over 500 participants have benefited from general fire safety training sessions
1,200 trainees benefit from rural fire fighting training
60 Working on Fire volunteers trained in Covid-19 protocols