FED up with criminals using their township as a safe haven to hide from the police and store their stolen goods, former uMkhonto we Sizwe veterans inChesterville, near Durban, have embarked on a campaign to "clean up the environment".
Armed with gardeningimplements, the 80 veterans chose to clear out the dense growth in "crime hotspots" in the township every weekend. At the weekend, supported by 20 grandmothers, the MK veterans began clearing up in one of the areas.
MK Veterans Association spokesperson Mlungisi Ndebele said: "The criminals have a known modus operandi. They move in, break into our homes then store the stolen goods in nearby bushes and vacant plots. Others in the area who need to service their expensive drug habits, especially the youth, also do the same thing."
But Ndebele said Operation Clean Up your Environment is to put a stop to such behaviour.
"We cannot have criminals taking over our homes and as a community we have to work together with the police to stop the criminals."
He said Chesterville, an area steeped in political infighting between ANC and IFP supporters in the late 1980s and early 1990s, was a peaceful township.
"We came together then to make peace, we come together now to fight crime. Our new war is against environmental degradation, social ills and criminals."
He called on others in the community to help in the clean-up. "We urge the community to join us. We will put an end to the criminals hiding and at the same time make our township look good and clean."
Ndebele said the areas of Ridge View, the Zimbimi informal settlement and Extension 2 had been identified as hotspots in theclean-up campaign.
He said people coming together with a common goal could make a difference. "In December we marshaled the local pathway where residents were being robbed, mugged and killed for their festive money. But last Christmas the crime was reduced significantly and people were free to shop.
"As private citizens we have been trained to make citizens' arrests and we will work with the police to make sure the criminals are caught," Ndebele added.