Members of the Bambanani community crime fighting initiative marched to the Western Cape Provincial Legislature on Thursday (26.11.2009) to protest against poor working conditions and inadequate stipends.
About 200 volunteers from Gugulethu, Philippi, Nyanga, Khayelitsha and Mitchell’s Plain toyi-toyied through the streets of Cape Town before handing over a memorandum outlining their grievances to Department of Community Safety Head of Department Gilbert Lawrence.
The Bambanani Against Crime initiative was launched in 2002 by then MEC Leonard Ramatlakane and is aimed at fighting crime by involving ordinary people as volunteers. Volunteers are deployed to guard schools and patrol streets during the day and night.
Speaking outside the legislature in Wale Street, Khayelitsha Neighbourhood Watch chairperson Siphosomzi Ndwalaza said volunteers were dissatisfied with long hours and the amount of the R50 stipend they received per day. Volunteers are expected to work for periods of two weeks, earning R500 a month.
In addition, Ndwalaza said there were no managers to supervise them and there was a communication breakdown between them and the police.
Ndwalaza said many of the demonstrators had worked as volunteers for more than five years.
He stressed that the job was dangerous and that volunteers had to operate without radios, uniforms or batons.
Philippi’s Neighbourhood Watch forum coordinator Isaac Dyosi said he wanted the community safety department to distinguish between Community Policing Forum (CPF) and Bambanani volunteers because at times conflict arose between the two.
He said both bodies made claims that the other was illegitimate and there was conflict over who was responsible for patrols at night.
Mxolisi Masizame (36) who said he had been working as a volunteer for the past three years in Khayelitsha, said the R50 a day was not enough because he had three children too feed. He demanded an increase of the amount to R100.
Accepting the memorandum, Lawrence apologised for the absence of MEC Lennit Max, saying he was locked in an all-morning meeting.
He said he understood the concerns raised about long hours and the amount of the stipend.
Lawrence said he would “sit down” with Max and discuss the issues before providing the volunteers with a response.
“I am not making any promises, but we will talk about it,” said Lawrence.
Ndwalaza said the volunteers had agreed to give the department seven days to respond. He said if there was no response, the volunteers would again take to the streets.