Small Free State town wins war against crime
While most of the country is reeling from the spiralling crime rate, a small community has reduced this scourge to almost non-existent.
Communities in and around the Ngwathe municipality in Parys, Free State, have become effective and expert crime fighters who are making their surroundings no-go areas for criminals.
"Five years ago rapes were the order of the day in Tumahole [township near Parys]," said 67-year-old Sophia Letsoalo of Tumahole.
"We also had gangsters terrorising the community.
"But we now live in peace and you can walk from one end of the township to the other without any fear," she said.
On Friday Moeketsi Moshodi, the mayor of Ngwathe, threw a party to say "thank you" to the police and the community for the dramatic success against crime.
Moshodi said the success was the result of collaboration between the police and the community. He said there was constant communication and consultation between the police, the mayor and the community through the community policing forum (CPF).
So close have the police, community and the CPF become that "we call them [the police] our colleagues," said community member Khotso Moemedi.
Moshodi said each police officer in the area had adopted a CPF, which held weekly meetings. Information from these meetings was analysed and any suspicious activities were reported.
"We see them [the meetings] as a part of our everyday lives as we sit with them [CPFs] in meetings and tackle crime.
"We are against the harbouring of criminals - we make their lives extremely difficult around here," Moshodi said.
He said the "Adopt a Police Station" campaign had encouraged local ward councillors to work together with police. Every councillor reported to a specific police station on a weekly basis.
Through the weekly meetings in their specific wards, the councillors give feedback to the police and also alert them about impending criminal activities.
"We need our communities to be able to effectively fight crime," said Tumahole police station commander Khothatso Mokotjo.
This was evident during the imbizo on Friday when the mayor's office donated 80 mountain bicycles to police reservists.
Ngwathe's 62 new police recruits will now be able to patrol all areas using the bicycles to increase police visibility.
"We realised that the police alone could not fight this scourge," Moshodi said.
"We came up with a programme to work together with the police stations, and through the 'Adopt a Police Station' initiative."
Moshodi maintained that there would not be a single criminal in Ngwathe by the year 2010.
But Mokotjo warned that domestic violence, which was aggravated by alcohol abuse, was still a problem.
Free State deputy police commissioner Joseph Nkuna said the collaborative efforts of the police, the community and joint civil and state structures at Ngwathe had borne fruit and were of great significance for the rest of the country.
"Crime fighting should be a collective effort and what is happening here proves that it works.
"We want you to continue working together and inspire the rest of the country to improve the situation around them," Nkuna said.