MEC Albert Fritz on assistance in the enforcement of the Coronavirus COVID-19 lockdown
23 April 2020
The Minister of Community Safety, Albert Fritz, has written to the National Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, requesting that accredited Neighbourhood Watch (NHW) members be permitted to patrol and assist in the enforcement of the lockdown.
Accredited NHWs can assist by promoting social distancing at supermarket (and other shop) queues, social distancing at clinics, social distancing at transport interchanges and patrolling of school grounds to prevent vandalism.
Minister Fritz said, “The presence of NHWs alone, particularly in communities with low police visibility, will serve to prevent crime. During the lockdown, we have seen an increase in vandalism of schools and shop robberies, particularly in our most vulnerable communities. Alternative solutions are needed to address this.”
The use of NHWs in the enforcement of 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).
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.”
The Western Cape is the only province in South Africa which regulates its Neighbourhood Watches. 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 added, “I maintain that the use of NHWs will greatly assist not only in the enforcement of the lockdown, but will also assist in preventing criminal activity. Our rural communities are at risk in this regard. I have heard the call of the many NHWs and Community Policing Forums who have raised their hands and offered their support during this difficult period.”
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.
Issued by Cayla Ann Tomás Murray, Spokesperson for Minister Albert Fritz, 23 April 2020