Media Release: Garden Route District Municipality supports Thembalethu Neighbourhood Watch
For immediate ielease 18 November 2022
On Tuesday, 15 November 2022, the Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM), as the ‘parent holder’ of the Transfer Payment Agreement Grant between the Western Cape Department of Community Safety and local municipalities in the district, handed over Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to the Thembalethu Neighbourhood Watch. Items included torches, batons and two-way radios.
GRDM was approached by the Thembalethu Area Based Team (ABT), formed by various community structures in Thembalethu, who requested assistance due to the high crime rate in the area for the neighbourhood watch. A request for PPE was received later during a Neighbourhood Watch and Community Forum (CPF) Indaba held.
Advocate van Niekerk, the Executive Mayor of GRDM, handed over the 90 batons, 20 two-way radios, and 20 torches to the Chairperson’s of the different sectors within the Thembalethu Neighbourhood Watch. The items valued at twenty thousand rand (R20 000). In his remarks, Advocate van Niekerk, GRDM Deputy Executive Mayor for GRDM, thanked the members of the Thembalethu Neighbourhood Watch for their commitment and willingness to stand out and take the lead. “To sit at home and point fingers, to complain, to ‘moan and groan’, is always the easy route, but the most difficult part is to wake-up in the early hours and to go out on patrol and to make sure your neighbourhood is safe – that makes you heroes,” Van Niekerk said.
Representatives from the Western Cape Department of Community Safety, the Deputy Executive Mayor of the GRDM, Advocate Gert Van Niekerk, members of the GRDM Mayoral Committee, the Executive Members of the Thembalethu CPF, the chairpersons and secretaries of the three sectors of Thembalethu Neighbourhood Watch and the South African Police Service were in attendance.
Media Release: Successful annual Gender-Based Violence Prevention and Awareness Summit hosted in the Garden Route District
For Immediate Release 4 May 2022
The annual Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Prevention and Awareness Summit, hosted by the Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM) in collaboration with the South African Police Service (SAPS), Eden and Da Gamaskop Cluster, took place on Thursday, 29 April 2022 at the Pacaltsdorp Civic Centre in George. Attendees included stakeholders and community activists involved in GBV from all over the district.
During this year’s summit, GBV issues and challenges in the Garden Route were discussed, with the intention to develop a GBV action plan as part of the National Strategic Plan. Messages of support and presentations were delivered by the National Youth Development Agency, Garden Route Men’s Sector, Family and Marriage Society of South Africa (FAMSA), Western Cape Department of Social Development, -Justice, -Correctional Service, -Health, as well as the local LGBTQIA+ community, faith-based and NGO communities in the district.
The summit also aims to bring together people from different communities, to talk openly about issues that occur in society; to prevent people from working in silos; to share ideas and come up with solutions. All these aims are combined to create a comprehensive plan to bring HOPE to people who are hopeless and fragile.
SURVIVOR OF GBV
A remarkable highlight of the summit was when Fredeline Stellenberg, a victim and survivor of GBV who was brutally attacked and stabbed 23 times in 2014, delivered her testimony. With her opening remarks, she said she didn’t want to focus on the actual event too much. Instead, she rather wanted to focus on how to rise and continue after such an experience. “No one can change the person they love or make them a better version of themselves. Unfortunately, a person will only change if he/she wants to. The biggest lie we, as women, can tell ourselves is that we have the ability to change our husbands.”
Fredeline further explained that she did everything she could to get help, hoping that things would change for the sake of her children. But towards the end, she realised that she was doing more harm to everyone she was involved with, including her husband. “I was never ashamed to show people that my marriage had cracks; I reached out for help, but in the end almost lost my life. I’m appealing to women, as well as men who suffer in silence, to stop pretending that everything is ‘fine’ but to start speaking out. You deserve better! Faith in God, love for my children, and hope for a better life carried me through. Always remember, nothing in life is so terrible that it cannot be overcome,” she says.
DEPARTMENT SOCIAL SERVICES ENCOURAGE DEPARTMENTS TO WORK CROSS-SECTORALLY
Ms Ingrid Parks of the Western Cape Department of Social Services applauded the community and Community Safety Forums (CSF) for being the ‘coalface’ in their communities who acts as an arrow of referral. She thanked the CSF members for the time that they offer and the work they do. Parks proceeds by saying, “It is at events such as today, when representatives from all departments gather together, that everyone is reminded that they all have their starting and ending points. When it comes to gender-based care, the bottom line is that departments must work cross-sectorally, meaning that the one hand must hold the other hand,” Parks said.
According to Ms Parks, Social Services offer a response and early intervention services. It is the first priority to assess and contain clients that are referred by SAPS, departments, and NGOs. This is because people/victims who are broken come with a lot of tears and brokenness and need comfort and containment. She elaborated on the critical support services they provide to families and individuals, which include:
trauma-specific support to the sexual defense court
therapeutic service; and
When it comes to raising awareness, we realised we had to move away from the 16 Day of Activism program to a 365 days campaign. Programmes need to run all year round. “We have to go back to the era where we take back our streets, right where we stay, because we have a role to play in our homes, churches and community.” In conclusion, Ms Hendricks, also from the Department of Social Services spoke on their victim empowerment programmes, the different residential and non-residential services offered and the care and protection of victim programme, which includes the placement of victims in temporary safe house facilities.
STATISTICS SHARED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
The ±200 people in the audience were captivated by the shocking statistics and data shared by the Department of Health. As part of the department’s GBV programme for 2021, Hessequa and Oudtshoorn were flagged as the two towns in the Garden Route where more than 17% of babies born, were born to women between the ages of 10 and 19 years old. This means that those women did not have the opportunity to complete their schooling or get to the next level of education. Furthermore, 51 girls between the ages of 10 -14 gave birth in 2021 in the Garden Route district and some of them were survivors of rape.
Mrs Gail Holton stressed the rise of sexual assault cases for 2021, saying that it’s evident that the system put in place by the department is working and that people are confident in getting the help they required. In conclusion, she highlighted the interventions the Department of Health had decided to undertake now around GBV in an attempt to look at their own ‘house’ first, trying to ‘fix’ it.
Among the steps they will take are:
increasing awareness through awareness days
facilitating open discussions
placing GBV on agendas of discussions with unions and during management meetings
ensuring that all staff know and understand the process of reporting GBV
designating and training sexual harassment officers for each sub-district.
It is the department’s belief that if they have an informed staff and get their house in order, they will improve the patient experience.
A MESSAGE FROM AN LGBTQIA+ ACTIVIST
‘Lady Jojo’, an activist in the local LGBTQ+ community in the Garden Route, explained where LGBTQ+ fits in at gender-based violence and shared some of the challenges faced. She referred to her past experiences, amongst others of GBV, “I am a product of being abused behind four walls, closed doors and closed curtains. After that, I am expected to go out and act normal, because I’m called a ‘moffie’tjie’ by some.
She also took time to explain the different letters of the LGBTQIA+ initialism, which stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex and Asexual, with the + sign including allies and other initials like pansexual, transsexual, questioning, etc.
Lady Jojo shared a deeper understanding on the names LGBTQ+ are given as swear words, as a means to take away their dignity, to make them feel inferior and rob them of their femininity. She also left the audience with some food for thought, challenging them to think deeply about the following:
Where do transgender women fit into the Constitution of South Africa;
How can I celebrate Human Rights Day when I am a victim of GBV;
How can I celebrate Freedom Day when freedom is taken from me on a daily basis;
Why is help withheld from me when I go to the police station to seek help?
“Please note, we as the LGBTQ+ community will no longer ask society to respect us, we will demand that from you. We do not ask you to accept us, we ask you to tolerate us, just like we all have to tolerate others”.
RESTORING DIGNITY WHEN DEALING WITH VICTIMS OF GBV
Ms Angelique Vezasie from the Thutuzela Care Centre situated at the Casualty Unit of George Hospital explained her organisations role as a multi-disciplinary team connected to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), health professionals, and the South African Police Service (SAPS). She also said that it is a one-stop facility introduced as a critical aspect of reducing secondary victimisation and improving conviction rates.
She briefly summarized the processes followed when a victim has been raped or sexually assaulted and reported it to the police. “When dealing with victims, it is very imperative that they receive the best quality service while maintaining their dignity, regardless of their age or the condition they are in when they enter our centre. GBV victims need to feel that they will be helped, seen, heard, respected, and believed when they come forward,” Vezasie said.
THE BILL OF RIGHTS, CHAPTER 2
Ms Elise du Toit, from the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development in Pretoria, presented next via Microsoft Teams. She spoke about the importance of understanding human rights and applying them. Attendees were urged to regularly read the Constitution that was provided to them, to understand the rights and duties of everyone living in South Africa and to become familiar with the defined structure of government and the values embedded within it.
For the purposes of the summit, Du Toit mainly focused on Chapter 2 of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights. “The Bill of Rights is the cornerstone of our democracy, and if you don’t want to read the Constitution or aren’t interested in anything about it, then I encourage you to read Chapter 2. It affirms our values of human dignity, equality, and freedom and explains our rights as citizens. However, most importantly, the state, not only the citizens or the public servants, but the government as a whole, has to maintain, promote and protect these rights,” explained du Toit.
USER-FRIENDLY APP TO EXPOSE GBV
As the founder and managing director of God Cares International, Debbie Pijoos has a reputation for being a passionate advocate for GBV in the Garden Route region. In her address, Ms Pijoos told the audience about a world-first new app she and her team developed to help victims of abuse and GBV.
Pijoos gave a brief history about how the idea of the app came to light from a desperate desire to do something about the escalating numbers of GBV in communities. “It was a very difficult year for GBV in our country in 2019, and as you all know, GBV does not have specific criteria. That year I found myself with the question, is there anything we can do to assist with this crisis, but at that stage, nothing came to heart.“
Months later, Pijoos and her team came up with the idea to develop a user-friendly app to assist not only victims and their families, but also offenders and those who would like to help and fight the war against GBV.
During her concluding remarks, Ms Pijoos explained the different support and services the app provides. She said: “Yes, we are sitting with a fatherless generation and that’s why we included a panic button on the app. Why must we always end with fathers or mothers going to jail and their spouses being buried, leaving children behind as orphans? Why not try and do something to stop this from happening in its tracks.”
REHABILITATION PROGRAMMES IN PRISON
The last speaker for the day was Ms Charmaine Cronje; a Social Worker at the Department of Correctional Services who gave a brief overview of what happens when a person ends up in prison after being sentenced. She explained the role of the multi-disciplinary team involvement, consisting of social workers, psychologists, teachers and spiritual care workers. Also how these role-players individually assess a prison in order to determine the needs and to recommend programmes.
“I need to clarify that officials in the past used to be only responsible to open and close prisons, but this process completely changed. Each official currently in service is seen as a rehabilitator, working together to help rehabilitate prisoners.”
Ms Cronje further explained that all the departments and NGOs present form part of their rehabilitation programmes and awareness activations that are regularly been roll-out in prison. “Rehabilitation is a process. When a prisoner is released, our ideal and goals are for him/her to be fully rehabilitated, ready to take his/her place as a fully capable individual in the community.”
Mr Siphiwe Dladla, the Chief of Staff for Garden Route District Municipality, concludes the summit by encouraging the delegates to share the information and knowledge they gained with others. “It is critical to remember that everyone in the country is affected by this pandemic. Let’s get involved in the fight against this evil.” Mr Dladla thanked the audience for their patience during the lengthy programme and presentations. Specifically, he thanked SAPS, under the leadership of Lieutenant–Colonel Kennedy, for ensuring that the right speakers were present and that the most relevant topic was covered with a high level of participation.
Annually, 27 January marks National Police Day in South Africa and on this day, South Africans and others residing in our country remembers the sacrifices that the men and women in blue have made and continue to make as they provide safety for all who live in South Africa.
As the Garden Route District Municipality, we would like to salute all members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) and express our gratitude for their continuous loyalty and efforts towards making our district and country, a safer and more secure place to live. We understand that much of the work that SAPS has been tasked to do over the past few months have been highly controversial, but we recognise the efforts by SAPS in risking their lives to fight crime, curb gender-based violence and domestic violence in our district.
We also honour the memories of the fallen heroes and heroines that have served our land with integrity and loyalty.
Media Release: Garden Route District Community Safety Forum established – another first for the Garden Route
For Immediate Release 11 November 2020
“Safety is everyone’s responsibility”
28 October 2020 marked a historic occasion for the Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM) when the GRDM in collaboration with the Western Cape Department of Community Safety, launched the first-ever Garden Route District Community Safety Forum in Mossel Bay. This event follows after several engagements and workshops, including an Alcohol Harms Reduction Work session, a Safety Plan Workshop and a Gender-Based Violence (GBV) workshop in 2019.
In December 2018, the Premier of the Western Cape, Mr Alan Winde, hosted a meeting with District Mayors – and Municipal Managers in the Western Cape. The purpose of the engagement was to introduce the Western Cape Provincial Cabinet’s District Safety Initiative Project, funded by the Department of Community Safety for four years.
Subsequent to the meeting, a Transfer Payment Agreement (TPA) was signed between the municipalities in the district and the Department of Community Safety where after funds were transferred to the GRDM. The TPA obliged the District Municipality to submit safety- and business plans in support of safety initiatives in the district. This approach emphasises the establishment of effective safety structures to facilitate and co-ordination role-players at the district and local municipal level. As part of this agreement, the WC Department of Community Safety will guide and assist each District Municipality with the development of a resilience model, to build safe and cohesive communities, which will be monitored through the municipal safety structures.
The launch was attended by Mayors and Deputy Mayors from across the district, Councillors and representatives from the Western Cape Department of Community Safety, the South African Police Services, Department of Correctional Services, Department of Social Development, Department of Home Affairs, the Provincial Traffic, the District Men’s Sector and senior municipal officials. During the official welcoming address, the GRDM Deputy Executive Mayor, Alderlady Rosina Ruiters, thanked the Western Cape Department of Community Safety for initiating and rolling out the project in the Garden Route and emphasised the critical importance of safety in the district.
Mr Justin Lottring, Deputy Director for Community Police Relations at the Western Cape Department of Community Safety did a presentation on what he called ‘the milestones reached” in leading up to the launch. He gave a brief background report on the progress made since 2018, future plans in terms of safety initiatives in the district and what stakeholders can expect from the Garden Route District Safety Forum. “Today we are pleased to be in a partnership with the GRDM to improve safety in the district. I believe that there is a link between well-being and safety, and that trust clearly influence and flow out of it. If partners don’t trust one another, they wouldn’t be able to work together,” Lottring said.
The GRDM Executive Mayor, Alderman Memory Booysen during his keynote address was persuasively stated that fighting crime is a collective effort. “What happens after today is the ‘real science’ of what is important. We collectively need to work together and address the current situation of over-crowdedness at correctional facilities within the district,” Alderman Booysen said. He said: “As a District Municipality, we do not want to overstep or interfere in the local municipality’s business. We are aware that some of the municipalities in the district are struggling and for that reason, we want to form partnerships and work together to combat crime.” In conclusion Alderman Booysen thanked stakeholders for their presence and support and said: “Let’s all keep on spreading the message by taking a ‘whole of society’ approach”.
In support of the newly established Forum, the different municipal- and sector department representatives each delivered a short message of support to the District Municipality for leading the district in a safer environment. As a token of their commitment, representatives signed a pledge, manifesting their support and willingness to partner with the GRDM.
As for the way forward, the GRDM will coordinate the establishment of local Community Safety Forums in each Local Municipality in the district to identify, develop and implement safety strategies, safety plans and safety projects. Safety plans will be captured in the IDP processes and existing safety partners will be utilised to assist the GRDM and local municipalities to combat COVID-19 and promote social distancing in the local hotspot areas.
GEORGE: Garden Route District Municipality (Garden Route DM) in collaboration with the South African Police Services’ Eden Cluster and Western Cape Government’s (WCG) Department of Community Safety (DOCS), on 23 and 24 August 2019, hosted a two-day multidisciplinary workshop about the following:
This workshop proved that there is a strong political will and an inter-departmental commitment to finding sustainable solutions for societal ills faced by communities. One of the many interventions discussed was the development of safety plans and the roll-out of community safety projects. Local municipalities will spearhead the development of safety plans, while Garden Route District Municipality will coordinate and fund the establishment it, including safety projects.
During the event, Executive Mayor of Garden Route District Municipality, Councillor Memory Booysen, reaffirmed the District’s commitment to the development of Safety Plans and projects by saying, “We will avail R50 000 per municipality to assist them with community safety projects, but first, local municipalities (Bitou, Knysna, George, Mossel Bay, Hessequa, Oudtshoorn and Kannaland), must establish safety forums.
The two-day workshop also derives from the January 2019 Eden Cluster Anti-Crime Summit. According to Eden Cluster Commander, Major-General Oswald Reddy, “We noticed a gradual increase in contact crimes – women and children were victims of this. In most cases, either the victim or the offender were under the influence of alcohol or drugs.” It is for this reason that we thought it best to utilise the Western Cape Government’s “Alcohol Harms Reduction Game Changer” programme to build social cohesion and resilience among community members.
DEVELOPING OF SAFETY PLANS
Ms Theresha Hanekom, Deputy Director: Strategic and Knowledge Management at Western Cape Government, presented what safety plans are, their purpose, including key elements and features of such a plan. “A safety plan is an integrated social crime prevention plan that acts as a starting point in informing numerous stakeholders about safety issues within their particular communities/region,” said Hanekom.
Later during the programme, Mr Monde Stratu, Municipal Manager of Garden Route District Municipality, said: “On 7 August 2019, Garden Route District Municipality and other municipalities met with the Minister of Community Safety, MEC Albert Fritz. MEC Fritz emphasised the importance of establishing community safety forums.”
“Safety plans and outlined targets for accounting officers who should not only develop plans, but also implement them.”
Stratu also explained expectations of Local Municipalities by saying:
“We require local municipalities to:
establish safety forums as a matter of urgency;
provide clear project plans who require funding; and
identify mediators (three per local municipality).
Stratu shared that the District will put aside R2500.00 for the establishment of safety forums.
In wrapping up day two’s programme, Mr Stratu urged audience members to be conscious of the following: “While we move forward to 2021, the end of the current term of council, there will be a lot of unrest. We need people who can mediate between the various stakeholders.”
“Everyone should reflect that if we compare ourselves to other districts, we are quite safe. It is still important to take a step back and reflect on what it is that has gone wrong over the past few months.”
MEDIATION CAPACITY BUILDING
Mr David Williams, Grabouw Community Police Forum Chairperson presented an insightful and informative presentation about mediation. Mediation during a crisis follows a range of steps, which includes various role players like first responders and mediators.
For instance, a first responder can be anyone from the public and play a similar role to that of community intelligence officers.
They are responsible for:
assessing why there is conflict;
identify why protest action is taking place; who the leaders are; who the instigators are;
liaising with SAPS and/or Law Enforcement Officers;
briefing of district safety coordinator and mediation coordinators; and
introducing a mediator to a group of community members.
Local municipalities must identify three mediators, while the district identifies two mediators.
establish credibility and neutrality;
discuss issues and explore options for conflict resolution;
not be politically affiliated;
be in good standing with community members;
be a person with integrity;
be able to speak two of the three official languages of the Western Cape;
have knowledge of laws and regulations.
In referring to mediators, Major General Reddy explained that the Eden Cluster wants to “empower mediators” and to “ensure that mediators have an aptitude for the job.” He said that mediator teams are “a priority for SAPS over the next three months.”
ALCOHOL HARMS REDUCTION
This topic focused specifically on how to reduce harms associated with irresponsible liquor trading and alcohol abuse in targeted areas.
Mr Justin Lottring, Deputy Director, WCG’s Department of Community Safety explained that “The ‘Alcohol Harms Reduction Game Changer’ is one of seven-game-changers in the WC. He said, “The Eden Cluster also embraced the ‘After School Violence Game Changer’.” View the WC Game Changers here: https://www.westerncape.gov.za/game-changers/
“One of the reasons why we focus on alcohol reduction here, is because it places tremendous pressure on the health care system,” said Lottring. This is especially true when thinking about the causes of road accidents, accidents involving pedestrians, sexual violence, assaults and even murders.
“Social harms like domestic violence are mostly related to alcohol abuse,” said Lottring.
WCG’s approach is to reduce access to alcohol, create alternative recreational activities and increase health and social services to distressed communities.
What is causing the excessive usage of alcohol within our community? (Adults and Youth)
What resources are there in the community that can potentially mitigate these causes?
What is the action plan going forward?
Following these questions, groups discussed problem areas identified by their municipal area group. Groups identified root causes of alcohol misuse and produced workable and executable action plans. Participants aligned recreational or remedial activities to sector departments or agencies for auctioning. Each group had an opportunity to present their group’s findings.
EARLY CHILDHOOD DEVELOPMENT
Ms Anna-Marie Muller from the DG Murray Trust, presented their views and research about Early Childhood Development (ECD).
She explained: “In ECD, there is a child and there is a child’s development. From a child’s developmental viewpoint, it progresses from Prenatal, Early Childhood, Middle Childhood and Adolescence early adulthood.”
When referring specifically to the first 1 000 days of a child’s development, Muller took it a step further by illustrating that “the brain means is highly responsive to environmental factors that promote strong brain development (protective factors). These include the good health and nutritional status of the mother, infant and child; a clean environment free of pollutants such as alcohol and drugs whilst in the womb. As an infant and young child; strong, protective and stimulating relationships with parents and other primary caregivers are of utmost importance. These relationships can introduce language-rich, nurturing and responsive caregiving circumstances; and access to safe care and quality early learning opportunities. It has to start from birth and until the child enters formal school, in centre- and non-centre-based ECD programmes.”
In summary, Muller presented the World Health Organisation’s framework for helping children survive and thrive to transform health and human potential. The guiding principles include good health; adequate nutrition; responsive caregiving; security and safety and opportunities for early learning. At DG Murray Trust they compiled 10 powerful opportunities for change, accessible on their website at https://dgmt.co.za/about-us/
In closing the workshop, Major General Reddy urged role players to “hit the ground running” and that there would be “time-frames, responsible persons and departments” to ensure that the programme is effectively monitored and evaluated. “Over the next few months, we will also launch a project to address domestic violence and to empower victims of crimes”