By SIYAMTHANDA PONGCO
Makhanda was once a relatively peaceful place, says Mcebisi Nicholas Tonyela and Luyanda Sakata, both members of Neighbourhood Watch/Anti-Crime. It was reasonably organised and driven by passion and purpose. But, they lament that crime and corruption have engulfed the town in recent years.
Not all hope is lost, though. If you look, many active citizen groups are pushing back against the chaos.
Sakata is the chairperson of Neighborhood Watch/Anti-Crime. Born and bred in Tantyi, he has been a community activist since the early 2000s when he matriculated from Ntsika Senior Secondary School.
He started as a Community Police Forum member and has been involved in many community groups. He once served as a ward councillor, and in the late 2000s, he formed a group with his friends and colleagues called the Umdombo Youth Care and Development Program, which taught residents to build houses, sew, and grow food.
Makhandans take pride in uplifting each other and encouraging social change, says Sakata.
Tonyela says Neighborhood Watch/Anti-Crime was formed to stop crime from spiralling, and they are committed to working closely with SAPS and the Community Policing Forum.
The group is very active on Facebook, with around 32 000 followers, making it one of the town’s most influential and active communication spaces.
“We have grown so much that we are no longer only involved in addressing crime-related matters,” says Tonyela. “This year alone, we have run campaigns against gender-based violence and assisted students in matric to ensure they do not miss their matric dance. We have also pleaded with the community to help children who are short of school uniforms.”
Sakata says Neighborhood Watch/Anti-Crime has also eradicated illegal dumpsites in Makhanda.
The organisation is looking for funding to help it extend its wings across the city and build on its existing partnerships with the SAPS, CPF, and the wider community.
They appealed to the community to continue to trust and work with the SAPS – and not to take law matters into their hands.