OPINION: Max, AfriForum’s safety plan is pro-active

Kallie Kriel

The recent worrisome and tragic events in Coligny sent a clear wake-up call that a pro-active national safety plan is necessary with which communities – within the framework of the law – can help see to it that their towns and cities are peaceful and safe areas. AfriForum has already invested much energy and many resources in the past few years in developing and implementing such a plan. 

A pilot project to further refine and test AfriForum’s comprehensive plan has just been launched in Bloemfontein under the name Project Nehemiah. Sections of the plan have also already been implemented in roughly 100 AfriForum neighbourhood watches country-wide. The ultimate goal is to implement the plan in its entirety in all AfriForum neighbourhood watches, as well as country-wide in other areas that do not currently have neighbourhood watches. 

Unfortunately, there will always be the armchair critics who try to shoot down AfriForum and the Solidarity Movement’s operations wilfully or out of pure ignorance. Max du Preez’s criticism in his article on News24 is an example of this when he states that AfriForum and Solidarity should be more pro-active to encourage mutual understanding in communities and that this would offer better protection than “sending in men with guns”.   

The safety plan that AfriForum and the Solidarity Movement have just unveiled to more than 1 000 neighbourhood watch delegates at a safety summit as well as what AfriForum neighbourhood watches are already doing country-wide entail so much more than simply “sending in men with guns”. 

This pro-active plan rests on two legs, namely that communities are being prepared to protect themselves and their properties within the framework of the law, and that wider cooperation between communities and all role-players should be encouraged to form a joint front against violence and crime and to promote mutual recognition and respect. 

For this reason, AfriForum neighbourhood watches are already cooperating with the South African Police Service in various towns and cities, as well as with community policing forums and community leaders from various communities. There obviously are certain areas where the Police and other role-players do not want to cooperate or do not have the ability to cooperate; there are many examples and areas, however, where excellent relations have been established and healthy cooperation exists. 

The taxi association in Elliot has joined the local AfriForum neighbourhood watch, for example, while good cooperation is also being established in numerous areas with black, brown and Indian communities and community leaders. Had these armchair critics only made an effort to acquaint themselves with AfriForum and the Solidarity Movement’s safety summit, they would have seen that the summit was supported by representatives and speakers from a variety of communities. AfriForum will continue – as a critical part of the safety plan – to promote healthy relations and mutual respect between communities on ground level. 

AfriForum will also continue in full with the second leg of its plan, namely to equip and assist communities to protect themselves and their properties within the framework of the law and to the best of their abilities. Just as school bullies focus on those who are vulnerable, crime bullies and politicians who incite polarisation focus on those who are vulnerable in their opinion. Good relations are indeed critically important, but it is naïve to think that the mere existence of good relations is an absolute guarantee for safety. 

The author Rian Malan indicated in a skilful manner in his reporting of the Coligny events that supporters from the Zuma camp, in an effort to defend their own shaky position, want to present the “whites” as the scapegoat for everything that goes awry. AfriForum will in principle not turn to the same type of polarising behaviour as that of the racially-obsessed in the Zuma camp, but will continue to confidently and on the basis of mutual recognition and respect promote the right of communities to protect themselves and their property in a responsible manner and within the framework of the law.  

AfriForum’s safety plan consists of various facets. Among other, it focuses on a crime prevention strategy that not only includes visibility, but also the collection and analysis of information. Technology also plays an important role and we have already started establishing crime prevention control rooms in various places. Prepared communities who have a carefully-planned and comprehensive anti-crime plan, as well as the ability and resources to implement this plan responsibly, are and remain the best guarantee to ensure stability and peace in the interest of everybody in the country.   

Communities from over the country who are not prepared for events such as we have seen in Coligny will urgently have to ensure that they prepare themselves. AfriForum is willing to help or cooperate with safety initiatives that have been established independently. Without a strong community safety initiative in Coligny, the community was vulnerable. This compelled AfriForum to deploy well-trained private security officers to protect people and property in a responsible manner without fuelling violence. 

The arm-chair critics who have so much to say remind me of the story of the bully John who ran to his mother and complained because Peter had hit him back. It cannot be expected of people to sit back and be bullied by having their homes torched and their property damaged? Responsible self-defence actions within the framework of the law are an unalienable basic right.  

The reactive deploying of security officers does not offer an ideal solution, however. AfriForum has therefor just established a community safety initiative in Coligny in cooperation with community leaders. It is a necessary step to help create a sustainable solution to violence. It would benefit other communities to do the same and to ensure that everything possible is done to prevent a recurrence of the Coligny events elsewhere.  

- Kallie Kriel is CEO of AfriForum.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. 

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