The Western Cape Minister of Community Safety, Albert Fritz, welcomes President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement that the country will be moved to alert level 3 of the lockdown as of 1 June 2020…

Following the announcement, Minister Fritz has reiterated to the National Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, that Neighbourhood Watches must be allowed to operate in the Western Cape.

On 23 April, Minister Fritz wrote to Minister Cele requesting that accredited NHW members be permitted to operate under the lockdown. To date, Minister Cele has failed to respond to this request.

Minister Fritz said, “Going forward, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) will review the Disaster Management Regulations. This will unpack the conditions under which NHWs may or may not operate under alert level 3. It is essential that our Neighbourhood Watches continue their essential work in our communities.”

NHWs can provide assistance

Accredited NHWs can assist by promoting social distancing at supermarket (and other shop) queues, clinics and hospitals, and at transport interchanges including taxi ranks.  The presence of NHWs, particularly in communities with low police visibility, will serve to prevent crime.

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Minister Fritz said, “I have heard the call of the many NHWs and CPFs who have raised their hands and offered their support during this difficult period. It is unacceptable that Minister Cele has failed to respond to this request. Minister Cele’s delay in responding under alert level 4 resulted in a missed opportunity to activate these NHW structures to implement community driven solutions to the ongoing challenges of social distancing and regular cleaning of public spaces. It is essential that these structures be activated.”

Minister Fritz added, “As the Department of Community Safety, we will continue to work with the City of Cape Town and other Municipalities to appoint accredited NHW members as Disaster Risk Management (DRM) volunteers. To date, approximately 478 NHW members from 58 NHW structures within the Metro have been appointed as DRM volunteers. My Department will further proceed appoint accredited NHW members as DRM volunteers within the identified COVID-19 hotspots to assist in tasks such as social distance management.”

“Informal structures”

The use of NHWs during the lockdown was previously discredited by Minister Cele who said that they are informal structures with no line of accountability. This is not true of NHWs in the Western Cape. Since 2016, NHWs in the Western Cape have been able to obtain accreditation in terms of the Western Cape Community Safety Act (WCCSA).

The Western Cape is the only province in South Africa which regulates its NHWs. To date, there are 322 accredited NHW structures in the province that have been screened, and receive training and resources in line with the WCCSA.

Minister Fritz said, “Our NHWs are regulated by Section 6 of the WCCSA which deals with the Accreditation and Support of Neighbourhood Watches.  Section 6 requires that all current and future members of a NHW undergo a screening process to ascertain whether they have any previous convictions before they can be considered for accreditation.  Our NHWs are credible and trustworthy partners. Furthermore, in terms of the WCCSA, all accredited NHW Structures and their members are directly accountable to me in my capacity as the Minister of Community Safety.”

If permitted to patrol and assist the lockdown, the Department of Community Safety will ensure that measures are in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to ensure that all members are protected whilst supporting the enforcement of the lockdown, including:

  • The provision of cloth masks and hand sanitisers during patrols;
  • Setting the number of those who are permitted to patrol and encouraging self-distancing between volunteers; and
  • Ensuring that those who show symptoms or who have been in contact with someone with COVID-19 are not permitted to participate in patrols. They should quarantine at home for 14 days, and be guided by advice of our dedicated Covid-19 Provincial Hotline.
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