Faces of Africa – Out of the Shadow Pt. 1

Cape Town in South Africa is famous for its natural beauty and attracting people from different cultural backgrounds. But that melting pot is, by most accounts, turbulent. The city is facing a crippling police shortage.  Due to poverty and unemployment, crime and more so violent crime is on the rise. Violent crime affects every aspect of life from home, school to business ventures.

Cape Town is famous for its natural beauty, but crime is also rampant in this city

For the large Chinese community living in Cape Town, their businesses endure multiple robberies. Violent gangs targeting both locals and the Chinese, but there is a group of brave individuals facing the challenge head on: the Community Police Forum (CPF). These ordinary citizens voluntarily patrol the streets in shantytowns, supporting law enforcement in areas where there is not enough police presence.

Community Policing Forums are constituted to improve communication between the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the community, to promote transparency and to foster joint problem-solving and co-operation with a view to improving service delivery by the SAPS. The SAPS is answerable to the communities they serve.

The CPF represents the community’s interests and monitors the SAPS’ service delivery. At the same time, the CPF tries to promote the image of the SAPS to the community in order to foster closer ties between the SAPS and the community.

The CPF performs a vital role in the civilian oversight of the SAPS in the precinct. A police service can only be effective when it enjoys the confidence and co-operation of the community which it serves.

The role of the CPF is to make the needs of the community known to the police and to help the police meet those needs. The primary objective is to promote a partnership between the community and the local police and to create an environment that will promote effective local policing that is user-friendly.

A Chinese community Police Forum (CPF) meeting in progress

Dong Gang is the Legal advisor of the local Chinese CPF, in the western cape area. This area has a large number of Chinese nationals residing and working in it.  Dong says the Chinese CPF is working with other local CPF for the betterment of the Community. This collaboration helps in consolidating relevant information for onward transmission to the police and locals, thus making the community safer and less crime prone. Part of their mission is to try and influence politicians for better civilian protection.

Lynn Phillips diffusing a tense situation in Mitchells Plain

Lynn Phillips, is a community activist and the local CPF chapter secretary in Mitchells Plain, The has been serving her community for more than 30 years. She has been instrumental in bringing both the Chinese and the local CPF to work together closely so as to improve the welfare of the whole community at large.

Mitchells Plain CPF chapter members

These fearless volunteers will patrol, gather information and help police to combat crime. Their daily effort against violence in Cape Town is truly exceptional and selfless. Proliferating drugs use and encounters with street gangs is making their work trickier than ever. Despite the unrelenting challenges, they refuse to give up. Ultimately, Both CPFs are about bravery, resilience, and friendships forged in adversity — no matter what background, the CPF members come from.