After several months of uncertainty in the Mitchell’s Plain Community Policing Forum (CPF) cluster, a new chairperson has officially been elected.
Lucinda Evans, from Lavender Hill, takes over the reins after the position was left vacant when former cluster chairman Hanif Loonat was ousted in January.
The cluster includes Grassy Park, Steenberg, Philippi, Mitchell’s Plain, Strandfontein, Lansdowne, Lentegeur and Athlone police stations.
Mr Loonat was asked to step down by several of the CPF cluster heads. It was being chaired by deputy chairperson Ebrahim Abrahams in the interim.
Well known in Lavender Hill, Ms Evans is an activist, community worker, founder and director of NPO Philisa Abafazi Bethu (Heal our Women), a women and children’s rights organisation and safe house in Lavender Hill.
Ms Evans has been recognised internationally for her work and commitment to the protection and empowerment of women and children.
She received the Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur from the French government in France last year.
Ms Evans served as the Steenberg CPF chairperson for 18 months and Philisa Abafazi Bethu has been a member organisation of the Steenberg CPF for the past six years. Ms Evans said she was humbled to have been nominated by the other seven CPF heads.
“The Mitchell’s Plain cluster is one with leaders who have a lot of experience with working, running and managing CPFs. At this point in time the cluster has many challenges but we plan to address all the issues so that we can function better and fulfil our mandate,” said Ms Evans.
She said rebuilding and strengthening the partnerships between the CPF cluster and other stakeholders were her main objectives.
“There are many challenges in the different areas. With all of the different dynamics of the station, the one common thread throughout is that we have a passionate group of volunteer leaders heading the CPFs who have the safety of the community at heart.
“That is the vantage point we are working from – keeping the community safe is our main objective and that is the common ground,” said Ms Evans.
When the Southern Mail, Athlone News’ sister paper, spoke to her, Ms Evans had been in the position for only eight days but already had a plan in place.
One of her other main focuses would be building the CPF cluster’s capacity.
“We will get the CPF executive (together) and have a training session within the next few weeks around the constitution, the role functions and responsibilities of the CPF and what our mandate is. Then we as civil society in partnership with government can look at specific things per area that need to be addressed but also as a cluster,” said Ms Evans.
Being a woman and children’s rights activists, Ms Evans said family violence and violence against women and children would also be among the priorities of the CPF cluster.
She said the tragic deaths of three people in the cluster recently sparked questions about what the role of the CPF was in addressing family violence.
The cases she was referring to are the murders of Rene-Tracey Roman, allegedly by a neighbour in St Montague Village, Stacha Arendse who was also killed by a neighbour in Mitchell’s Plain, and Abenise Bouwer whose body was found buried in a shallow grave behind her home in Lotus River.
Another main priority for the CPF cluster was to look at gangsterism and the effects of gang violence on the community, especially in Hanover Park, an area where the cluster will prioritise and provide more support to the CPF.
“We want to mobilise our communities to work with the CPF. As a cluster we will rebuild trust and relationships with neighbourhood watches, block, street and flat committees because we all have a role to play in terms of ensuring safety.
“Community safety cannot be driven by police, the CPF or the community alone, there needs to be unison. I am keen to get ward councillors and other law enforcement agencies like the City of Cape Town’s Metro police and Law Enforcement to play their role in the communities as well by enforcing by-laws. There should be a collective mandate,” said Ms Evans.
She said it would be a long journey but hopefully in the next year and a half the Mitchell’s Plain CPF cluster will see the positive effects of capacity building.
“I am looking forward to working with all stakeholders and to open up a line of communication so that we can work together to make our communities safer,” said Ms Evans.
She has called on communities to support their CPFs.
“The previous chairpersons have done sterling work. I ask that the community and other stakeholders prepare for some changes that naturally come with new leadership but they will be positive changes which are only in the best interest of the community. It is not centralised around the police or CPF,” she said.
Brigadier Mmagauta Letsoalo, deputy cluster commander of the Mitchell’s Plain police cluster, said he was happy with Ms Evans’ election.
“Ms Evans is a good leader. She was chairperson of a very difficult Steenberg CPF and showed good leadership. I know she is going to do a good job because she is a very hard worker,” said Brigadier Letsoalo.