Ritavi Victim Empowerment Programme in Limpopo Province acts on liquor outlets and crime in Dan village

For twenty years Dan Village was known as the village of crime in the Tzaneen /Nkowa-Nkowa area, Limpopo Province. People were scared to visit due to crime in the area:  people were robbed, hijacked, raped, even killed for their personal belongings. Despite its size – Dan Village is small, with estimated population of about 4,000 – it has 27 taverns. This makes it easy for young people to access alcohol and to spend a lot of time in taverns.

The Community Policing Forum (CPF), police and other community structures have monitored the situation, reporting that most people frequenting taverns and buying alcohol are under the age of 18. This in turn sometimes results in gender-based violence with the police records showing several incidents of rape, assault and murder during weekends.  Police and CPF investigations show that 50 % of cases reported over weekends relate to gender-based violence due to alcohol and substance abuse. The statistics are provided to the local CPF by the local police station.

Having decided to address the problem, Ritavi Victim Empowerment Programme (VEP) held three meetings with the community, CPF, local churches and the police, sharing police crime statistics and engaging on how to solve the problem. Because the police indicated that most criminal activity is reported over weekends, with most offenders under the influence of alcohol and drugs, the community’s view was that the problem was the accessibility of alcohol and drugs. Complaints included the number of taverns, some of which operate 24 hours a day, the easy availability of alcohol, the lack of regulation of tavern closing hours so that some operate 24 hours a day, alcohol abuse within the village, the resultant violence on streets and in households, including high rates of gender-based violence against women and children.

Ritavi VEP and the community decided to consult government to request that they enforce the Liquor Regulation Act to reduce the use of alcohol, which in turn would assist to manage criminal activities in the area since the police statistics indicated that most people arrested for gender-based violent reported cases are under the influence of alcohol.

The community also decided to patrol voluntarily at night, in order to reduce crime in the village and to ensure that the community is safe.

Mr Nicholas Shingange, born and raised in Dan Village, is the chairperson of Ritavi VEP. Due to his concern about the situation in the village, Mr Shingange wanted to improve the situation through working with the community to fight the crime in the area. Together with his team and community structures, he collected evidence from the police station and through Ritavit VEP held three community meetings to discuss the situation. The meeting was attended by community structures with all community structures invited including CPF, churches, traditional leaders and young people. At the meeting, attendees heard reports from the local police station of alcohol-fueled crime incidents in the area. The meetings resulted in three main courses of action:

  • The community decided to advocate for liquor license regulations;
  • The community organised voluntary teams to patrol the village to keep it safe from criminal activities at night. Since the start of the patrols, they have seen a reduction in criminal activities because most people committing such crimes were arrested with the remainder aware that they were being watched and that chances of committing crimes were low because of the community action;
  • They organisE
  • ed an imbizo to create awareness and to address the situation, to which they invited the MEC for Transport and Community Safety, police officials and the former premier; and
  • Through DWF training on advocacy during collaborative workshops, Ritavi VEP improved their communication with Limpopo Provincial Legislature and submitted a written petition with regards to the above-mentioned problem.

Since the community has started patrolling at night, Dan Village has seen a reduction of criminal cases reported to the police and is aiming to become a crime-free area, with day and night patrols to guard against crime and ensure criminals have little chance to commit a crime. The community is actively involved in addressing their concerns. Partnerships have been developed between the various stakeholders, including Provincial Legislature.

Through engagement, Ritavi VEP managed to improve the situation by motivating the community to take responsibility to solve the situation. Through the patrols, they have achieved a significant reduction in cases reported to the police. The community and the police are working together to fight crime which is a great achievement.

Motivated by Ritavi VEP, the community finally submitted a petition to the Provincial Legislature. This achievement was a result of Ritavi VEP motivating the community to participate in the Legislature processes andCSPPL Programme, Ritavi VEP has been motivated to engage the community to participate in the legislature, sharing this information and its importance with the community.

Ritavi VEP and the CPF invited the MEC to the imbizo to address the issues of crime and alcohol. The MEC and the former Premier attended to address the problem, commending the action taken by Ritavi VEP to bring people together to address their challenges.

On top of this, the community decided to patrol on their own in order to ensure that crime is reduced in the village.

No response has been received to the petition. The community is still monitoring the situation through patrolling voluntarily at night.

Eric has worked in different Civil Society Organisations in South Africa from the year 2000. He was responsible for programme planning, management, implementation and coordination of different programmes and projects including health, water and sanitation, HIV/AIDS, enterprise Development and human rights.

He holds a BA Degree in Social Sciences from the University of Limpopo, Higher Certificates in Management from Foundation for Professional Development and currently with Post Graduate Certificate in Education at University of South Africa.

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