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The History Of The Establishment Of The Meerhof Community Watch
The History of Meerhof Community Watch
Whether crime incidence has increased significantly over the last 20 years is a question which is difficult to answer due to political reasons, vested interests, different viewpoints and many complex factors. What can however be said without fear of contravention is that many people’s perception is that crime has increased, and many people feel more threatened than in the past - be it rationally or irrationally so does not matter. This can be seen from the explosive growth in the private security sector, the mushrooming of community safety structures and the popularity of security-estates. The Hartbeespoort Community was no exception in this regard.
The Hartbeespoortdam Community Policing Forum (CPF) has a fairly long and distinguished history and the first copy of its constitution predates February 2007. Mr Pieter Rautenbach, as chairman, interacted strongly with the SAPS structures and even landed up in jail at a particular point in time! It seems that a good working relationship was eventually established and I remember that both Pieter as well as the Hartbeespoortdam structures received good credit for what was established in Hartbeespoort. I don’t know whether this success story was ever recorded for the benefit of our community. (But it should be!)
Mr Romano van der Spuy was a person who worked tirelessly for the security situation in Hartbeespoordam ever since I met him, to such an extent that he carried the burden of being the chairman of the CPF as well as the Sector 1 Crime Forum when we met. We then already had in existence a prime example of a successful community security action in Hartbeespoort, Plotwag, under the strong and effective leadership of Mr Harro Rust, as well as a number of security companies (like Paracops), interested in helping to get community security activities off the ground.
On 3 January 2009 there was a burglary at Jean Botha ave 2, Meerhof that highlighted the vulnerabiliity of the residents of Meerhof. Although Paracops reacted quickly as well as the SAPS eventually, it was clear that something more was needed to secure Meerhof. I started contacting long-standing fellow-residents of Meerhof, trying to convince them that a community watch should be established based on the goodwill and voluntary service of the residents. I received the name of Romano van der Spuy who was very active in organising for security in the Hartbeespoort area and was kindly granted a meeting with him on 8 April 2009 at the House of Coffees at Sediba Plaza. He encouraged the formation of a Meerhof Community Watch and referred me to Mr Harro Rust for guidance. A meeting with Mr Rust took place on 20 April while a letter was sent out to Meerhof residents on 9 April 2009 to facilitate the formation of a community watch.
A first community meeting was assembled (attended by about 50 residents) at Meerhof school on 7 May 2009 where the chair, Mr KPJ Nel introduced various speakers: Mr Van der Spuy, Superintendent Jannie van der Walt, Mr Harro Rust , Director Hannes Strydom and others. Eventually it was decided that a community watch will be established and a first management committee to support the chair of the meeting was elected in the persons of Mrr Kim van der Merwe, Frank Bonafede, Tienie Badenhorst, Dan Shilling and Ken Mc Ferrier. Twenty-eight people enrolled for membership and a next meeting was set for 18 June.
The first management meeting took place at 4 Jean Botha ave on 22 May 2009 where the different portfolios of the management committee were filled. Amongst those Mr Mc Ferrier was asked to fulfil the important role of Program Director with the specific task of organising the patrols. He was also delegated the task of attending the Sector 1 meetings and reporting there on behalf of Meerhof. Patrol instructions were issued on 23 May and the first patrol was conducted on a Sunday night 24 May 2009 by Mrr Nel and Mc Ferrier, whereafter regular patrols were instituted and conducted according to a roster. At the general meeting of 18 June the official logo of the Watch was accepted.
On 21 July 2009 both Mrr Nel and Mc Ferrier attended a meeting in Schoemansville at the house of Mr Neels Claassen to facilitate the establishment of the Schoemansville Community Watch. The Bravo November Community Radio Network came into being on 25 January 2010 after thorough research and tests were done during the previous December holidays. A Service Level Agreement was concluded between the Meerhof Watch and the radio network.
On 22 September the Meerhof Community Watch held its first proper Annual General Meeting at Sky-e Bistro, at Landsmeer, attended by 22 people and 10 tendering apologies. At the meeting a decision was taken that a bank account could be opened for the proper management of funds and permission was given that the building provided by Madibeng during January 2010 could be occupied for purposes of an OPS room. The outgoing chairman presented a report and Mr Mc Ferrier was elected as the new chairman. This role he fulfilled very ably while the Watch grew from strength-tot-strength to more than 60 members. Unfortunately Mr Mc Ferrier had to relinquish this position after about a year when he was called upon to go and work abroad for some time. On 17 June 2010 at an Annual General Meeting a new management committee was elected and at the subsequent management committee meeting Mr Nel was elected as new chairman.
Late during 2010 and early during 2011 the Watch endeavoured to implement access control to Meerhof and all the necessary applications were forwarded to Madibeng, with the support of the local SAPS Station Commander. This process was effectively stalled by one person who was not even residing in Meerhof – Mr Jack Seale. After his objection the Madibeng Council just lost interest in the matter and never proceeded with the required hearing.
On 11 August 2011 Brig Hannes Strydom was elected as chair at the AGM of the Watch. He fulfilled this role with distinction for more than a year and his kind leadership was greatly prized by Meerhof Watch members. He served for an extended term since the candidate to follow him, Dr Theo Tonsing, suffered a serious heart attack on the night of the election and passed on two weeks later. At the AGM of 8 October 2013 Mr Nel was re-elected as Chairman and Mr Mc Ferrier, Dr Strydom and Mr van Brakel were offered ex-officio management positions due to their prior election in the CPF structures. On 11 April 2014 Mr Nel stood down from the chairmanship and Mr Johann Smith was properly elected as the new chairman.
To date the Watch has already conducted more than 1000 patrols which easily amounts to more than 30 000 patrol kilometers. Besides the fact that Meerhof has seen a decline in crime incidence over the years, and is today still relatively crime-free, there are many other success stories. It is with gratefulness that we salute the valiant members of the Meerhof Community Watch.