By Anees Teladia
The recent near-fatal stabbing incident in Bo-Kaap which saw a young French student stabbed in the neck has once again highlighted the state of crime and lawlessness in Cape Town. The chairperson of the Bo-Kaap neighbourhood watch and execo member of the Bo-Kaap community policing forum, Ebrahim Christian says that while Bo-Kaap is generally safe, there have been several incidents concerning muggings and robberies. He believes that there seems to be malicious intent in the robberies – intent which runs deeper than quick financial gain for individual robbers and attackers.
“The situation in Bo-Kaap is generally safe, but it is not a safe area. You have a lot of robberies and tour muggings which mostly occur during the day – early morning until early afternoon. That’s when the streets are empty and quiet,” said Christian.
“But there is some spite in the robberies taking place.”
Crime is a serious issue within the Western Cape and citizens feel conditions deteriorating rapidly. The tourism industry in South Africa is a significant contributor to our country’s economy and Cape Town is one of South Africa’s top attractions. With crime on the rise and tourist safety being a point of concern to other countries – in some instances resulting in countries cautioning their citizens on travelling to South Africa – the issue of safety and security in and around the city needs to be taken more seriously, especially in areas with increased tourist attraction.
Christians commented on the efforts of the neighbourhood watch and explained that those efforts are undoubtedly insufficient in the fight against crime.
“There is a neighbourhood watch but all of the members are volunteers who work as well. So, during the day it’s difficult to police the area. There’s also very little SAPS (South African Police Service) visibility within the area, during the day and night.”
The attacker is not, however, a resident of the Bo-Kaap community according to Christian. Furthermore, Christian says that the complaints of the community regarding safety and security have fallen on deaf ears, despite the community taking initiative and highlighting key areas and hotspots of crime.
“Safety and security should take priority in Bo-Kaap. The councillor here is quite aware of hotspots but very little, if not nothing, has been done from the councillor’s side. Numerous mails and pictures were sent out to him regarding the problem areas. It’s a hideout for criminals. More and more people are moving into that area we identified to the councillor,” said Christian.
When asked whether he thinks that Bo-Kaap might see increased safety due to the area’s recently recognised heritage and importance, Christian said that he does think it will benefit the community in that regard.
“Safety and security will be escalated now that Bo-Kaap is on the heritage map. It will be put on the top of our priority list. We are going to make changes to have Bo-Kaap improve on safety and security… not just for tourists but for the broader community as well. We get car break-ins, house break-ins and so forth, so safety and security will take priority.”
Christian also reiterated the need for community involvement in reducing crime.
“Our community must be aware of what’s happening around them. They must be the eyes and ears of law enforcement. They must come forward if they see something. If you see a criminal, take note of what’s happening and of the person performing the robbery. Provide your information so that we can arrest people and make our streets safer for our kids, elders, youth and all those coming to visit.”