On Tuesday a multi-stakeholder violent crime task team in Nelson Mandela Bay held its third of a series of “imbizos” to hear from residents in different gang-shooting hotspots in the city’s sprawling, crime-ridden Northern Areas
Pastor Timothy Hendricks, a member of the task team and representative of a city transformation movement called One People, One Vision, Heal Our Bay, told Gateway News their next step is to hold an “autopsy” to analyse the extensive feedback they have received from residents. with a view to putting action steps in place to address problems in each of the areas they visited.
The neighbourhoods where they held imbizos – Hillside, Arcadia and Kamesh – span a distance of about 35km across most of the Northern Areas. Collectively the gatherings were attended by government, municipal, civil society and SAPS representatives.
Sharing some impressions of the process so far, Pastor Timothy said a common problem they observed in all of the communities was that “children have taken over the family reins”.
“Parents have lost their parenthood status. Parents and children drink [alcohol] together and the children have become their parents’ equal.”
“The gangsters don’t come from another planet. They come from off our streets. And, unfortunately, our children have actually been seeing them as role models because of the ‘bling bling’.
“And we need to turn that around, to show them real role models and to make education our first priority,” he said.
He said they hope that professionals from the Department of Social Development will come on board to assist with addressing many social ills plaguing the communities. To date the department has not taken up invitations to be part of the process, he said.
He said that there is also great potential for churches to play a role in restoring the communities. “Sadly, the Church, in general, has just focused on its own church community.”
He hopes that the current initiative will result in churches rising to the challenge of serving the broader community.
He said SAPS, who came on board with the imbizos initiative at the second and third gatherings, “are still too reactive – and they react when it is too late”.
He said there is a dire need for the community to be involved in policing and to play an oversight role over SAPS. He also said there is a need for residents to be educated about community policing and for the community policing forum to be driven by civilians.
Timothy commended NGOs who he said “have taken the bull by the horns” and are pulling in government and other NGOs.
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