Armed with knobkerries and golf clubs, foreign nationals in Wallacedene are patrolling the streets of Phase 7 – they claim they’re keeping the community safe, but others have raised questions about the group’s legality.
The group is led by Innocent Muneri, a 39-year-old Zimbabwean who has lived in Wallacedene since 2012.
He says the patrols have the approval of the police and that Kraaifontein police station’s top brass have prayed with them before patrols, armed them with knobkerries and given them logbooks.
He says a CPF leader joined one of their patrols and that they met “a Xhosa-speaking captain”, whose name he couldn’t recall.
The patrols are needed because foreigners in the area are soft targets, he says.
“It’s like a neighbourhood watch. We’ve got Congolese, Malawians and Zimbabweans.
“Some of the foreign nationals are here illegally, so they’re scared of going to the police station to report the crimes against them because they may be deported.
“So the criminals already know this, they know we rent households where the landlords don’t live, so we can’t be protected.”
Locals also benefit from the patrols, he says. “Some of them are on our side and some of them do not want to hear about it… because those who oppose this benefit from the crime.”
Mr Muneri says the golf clubs and knobkerries they carry are “just for protection and self-defence”.
Asked how the criminals have responded, Mr Muneri says: “They are very angry. They don’t want to hear about it. It has also reached us that they might harm us when we patrol.”
The group was formed, he says, after criminals broke into a home and raped a child, who is a foreigner.
But Mr Muneri says the group is not just there to protect foreigners.
“We are trying very hard to get a few more locals to help us. This is not a foreigners’ thing; it’s for everyone.”
The most common crimes in the area, he says, are rapes, phone robberies and house-breaking at night, and these take place near the yellow container by the Phase 7 park and Phase 7B. The robbers move in groups of three or four, he says.
Mr Muneri says accusations that members of the group randomly rob and beat people come from those who are trying to undermine their crime-fighting efforts, and he denies these allegations.
However, community police forum chairman Rob Bisset distanced the CPF from the group, which he says is being investigated by the police.
“If you want to be in the neighbourhood watches, then join the right organisation and work with the SAPS and CPF,” he says.
He denies that any CPF member met with the group.
Kraaifontein police and mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith did not immediately respond to questions.
Ward 6 councillor Siyabonga Duka says police invisibility and unemployment have led to the targeting of foreign nationals in the area.
He says he doubts whether the constitution allows foreign nationals to form parallel anti-crime structures.