Coot Block reinstated

2018-10-09 06:01
Members of the Coot Block.PHOTO: Samantha Lee

Members of the Coot Block.PHOTO: Samantha Lee

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A local block watch is all set to return to the streets following their reinstatement by the Department of Community Safety (Docs).

After being disbanded by the Mitchell’s Plain Community Policing Forum (CPF) in July, the ousted Coot Block committee decided to pursue legal assistance, after what they believed to be an unfair decision which started with a conflict over public open spaces­.

Brenda Cooper, chairperson of the Coot Block Watch says they had sought help from various entities and met with Docs MEC Dan Plato, on Monday 10 September, who reinstated them.

At the initial meeting where the decision was taken, Abie Isaacs, Mitchell’s Plain CPF chairperson said the date of the meeting was agreed to by all parties at the first meeting.

“As the CPF we have taken conscious decisions to the benefit of this community. Unfortunately a section of the community that were here last week (the Coot Block) have opted not to come,” he said.

“The current Coot Block are no longer in existence. They are dysfunctional and dissolved with immediate effect.”

He continued that the decision was made in line with the constitution of the CPF which governs them. It was then also decided on a meeting date that will see the election of new members to serve on a block watch (”Block watch disbanded”, People’s Post, 24 July).

This meeting followed several others between the community and the Coot Block committee, facilitated by the local subforum. After a resolution could not be made, the subforum called on the assistance of the CPF.

Cooper says they had sent a letter of apology due to circumstances, however, no letter was read and further, Isaacs says no letter was received. The Coot Block were accused of misconduct, claims they say are false.

Cooper’s husband, Mark, a member of the Coot Block Watch says some of the comments made at the initial meetings were false. “These are all false allegations. Things that they say we have done or said are not true, they did not happen. All that we did was for the better of our community. When we were here, the streets were quiet.

Brenda adds:“We were one of the best blocks in Rocklands because we help set up other blocks. We were doing good work. We don’t work only in our community. We reached out to others where gangsterism was bad and we try to get that community together. Minister Plato told us we must go back onto the streets.”

Several members of the committee and patrollers were present at the meeting to tell their story. They claim they have been told they harassed residents, closed shops, chased people away and were violent, had control over the local park which was not to the liking of the community and that they were too old to patrol.

Their members range from 40 to 80 years old, they confirm, however, they do not feel they are too old and say they had respect from residents when on the streets.

Isaacs says the decision was made in line with the constitution of the CPF which governs them. However, Plato disagrees.

He says that according to legislation, the CPF does not have the right to disband a neighbourhood watch (NHW).

However, he says it can, in consultation with the police, recommend that it be disbanded, should there be any illegal activity in the NHW.

“The NHW in question is not accredited with the department and neither have we received an application for accreditation from them as of yet. A block watch can be registered with the department providing that their patrol area does not fall within the demarcated area of an accredited NHW.

The Department of Community Safety’s Sub-Programme Community Police Relations performs a supporting role to the CPF and should a process of mediation be required, Community Police Relations and the neighbourhood watch component in the department can partner with the CPF and [police], and mediate to work towards a workable solution. A block watch differs from an NHW only in name but they are held to the same standards for accreditation and subsequent reporting.

The term ‘block watch’ normally refers to a structure with a much smaller demarcated area than an NHW. Street committees are also held to the same standards. The mandates of all are exactly the same,” Plato says.

Isaacs says: “We received complaints from the same community the Coot Block represent and that street and block committees do not reside under Docs and that the CPF have not received any mail to that extent of their apology to the meeting. We had several meetings with the community and the few individuals decided not to attend. The committee was elected by the same community and if Docs has reinstated them, we need to ascertain which directorate as there are many departments in Docs. No communication from Docs to our office with regard to reinstatement has been received.”

April Engelbrecht, founder of Agents for Change has offered assistance to the Coot Block in getting them “rightfully reinstated”. “This is a legal matter,” says Engelbrecht. “They have defamed their name. There is nothing in the CPF constitution that allows them to disband a block watch.”

The committee are all set to return to the streets to patrol. They say they are willing to work with the other block watch in seeing order resumed in the streets. They are also currently in the process of resubmitting their registration papers to the department to be registered and after this will be working on another safety project with them.

The Coot Block operates within the boundaries of Westpoort Drive, Weltevreden Road, Cedar Avenue and parts of Dagbreek Lane.


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