Protest over Hot Spot pilot project

A breakaway group from Hanover Park neighbourhood watches protested, saying they had been promised a six-month work contract by Mayor Dan Plato’s office.

A breakaway group from different neighbourhood watches in Hanover Park protested outside the Cape Town Civic Centre, saying they had been promised a six-month paid opportunity initiated by Mayor Dan Plato’s office, but that this never came to fruition.

Mr Plato’s spokesperson, Greg Wagner, confirmed the pilot project in Hanover Park, called the Hot Spot programme.

Spokesperson of the breakaway group, Shireen Hendricks, and chairperson of Mothers of Hope neighbourhood watch, said an official from the mayor’s office held meetings with leaders of the different neighbourhood watches, informing them of the project, which was supposed to start on Thursday July 1.

“We were told five members from each neighbourhood watch would be recruited to work on the programme. The members must be part of accredited neighbourhood watches, and a total of 30 people for the whole of Hanover Park would sign contracts with the City of Cape Town and earn from this project.

“Our group represents seven neighbourhood watches. Most of us have been doing this voluntarily for six years already, and naturally, when a paid opportunity comes, we will go for it. Nobody can give us answers. The 30 were selected, but no contracts were signed and no one received any payment,” Ms Hendricks said.

The group has accused Ward 47 councillor, Antonio van der Rheede, of sowing division among the various groups, with him wanting to “handpick his favourites” for paid opportunities.

Fazlin Fourie from Waymakers Neighbourhood Watch agreed with Ms Hendricks, saying Mr Van Der Rheede “builds walls among the community”.

“As neighbourhood watches in Hanover Park, we were once a strong unit, but he (Mr Van Der Rheede), broke that trust. He is playing on our emotions, because he knows we need to put bread on the table,” Ms Fourie said.

Also among the protesters on Thursday August 12, was Anthony Jaggers, who said the watch members were patrolling by 5am every morning.

“These people do a good job for the community. I have been doing something like the Walking Bus since 2004, long before it was officially implemented, but in 2019, when I wanted to join it formally, I went to Mr Van Der Rheede and he told me he does not know me,” Mr Jaggers said.

Mr Van Der Rheede, however, said he did not have “the power to give anyone contracts”.

“The breakaway group used to be part of our Ward 47 Safety Forum. No one is here on the premise of a contract or for money. The Hot Spot programme was introduced to the community, and some neighbourhood watch members worked with the City on this programme.

“New people were considered first, as some of them already earned before. To ensure fairness, if you earned a stipend from a City project, and other opportunities come up, then those who have not worked on a project before, are considered first,” Mr Van Der Rheede said.

He added that if anybody was guilty of sowing division, it was the City official who introduced the programme.

“There will never be enough for everyone. I knew there would be a lot of unhappy people because they promised payment.”

Mr Van Der Rheede added that he had been uncertain whether the members of the breakaway group were still active neighbourhood watch members.

“I wanted to know what criteria were used to select, and whether those selected were active.

“All the neighbourhood watches regularly send me reports, but not the breakaway group, and therefore I don’t know if they are active. I sometimes patrol with the neighbourhood watches, and I can account for those,” Mr Van Der Rheede said.

Mr Wagner said the deployment of neighbourhood watch structures to hot spot areas had resulted in a decrease in robberies.

He added: “The project was initiated and planned to start on Thursday July 1 and initially intended to be managed by an external service provider. However, it was determined that sufficient capacity existed internally to administer the project. Members had to belong to an accredited neighbourhood watch structure. The length of the contract would be for six months at a time and would be assessed for renewal.

“We have kept the structures informed about the challenges and that they will be paid, backdated from 1 July 2021, but we could not make payment until all of the administrative requirements have been attended to. We are at an advanced stage in this process. This group has been updated on this process to explain the challenges and acknowledged the current status feedback in that meeting.”

Mr Wagner also said that most of the people who protested were part of neighbourhood watch structures whose accreditation had lapsed and were awaiting the renewal thereof.