Happiness Mamfenguza


75I came to Monwabisi Park in 2004 from a village in the Eastern Cape mainly to look for a job.  I was glad to leave the Eastern Cape.  I had a hard life there when I was young.  I was an orphan and didn’t have my mother to support me.  So I came here, rather than going to Jo-burgh or Durban, because my aunt and uncle lived in Khayelitsha, and my children’s father lived in Langa.  He and I decided to move to Monwabisi Park, where he had a niece, and we managed to build a shack for the four of us.   Work has been difficult to find.  Due to my circumstances when I was younger, I didn’t finish grade 12, or get my matric, and so didn’t have the certificates to help me find work.  But now, with the volunteer work I’ve done, I have been able to find training and now have a number of certificates, such as a neighborhood watch certificate,  basic computer operation, business management, and leadership.

How did you become a patrol leader of Monwabisi Park?

I am the Monwabisi Park coordinator of the community patrol.  This patrol is sponsored by the city agency, the VPUU.  We patrol three times a week—-Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  We go out at nine at night and we finish at two o’clock in the morning.  Our volunteer numbers go up and down, but most nights we have some 50 volunteers;  usually there are more women than men…say thirty women to twenty men.  I’ve been patrolling in Monwabisi Park since 2005.  In 2005 the crime rate was very high here—we had housebreaking, murder, and rape.   It seems to me that the patrol has helped lower the crime rate.  We still have crime however.

On the day of a patrol I organize a meeting of my four coordinators, one from each section in Monwabisi Park.  We discuss how to deploy our patrol members and how many we expect to come that night.  On a sign up sheet, the coordinators list the names of volunteers they expect will be coming, and then later in the day they will get a signature from the volunteer to confirm.  We don’t have trouble getting volunteers.  Going on patrol, you need to have courage.  We don’t carry weapons or wear bullet proof vests.  We have two way radios, flashlights, and we wear bright color jackets and heavy boots.   It’s important to make people realize that the VPUU does not pay the members of the patrol ; we earn nothing…we are volunteers.   Our patrol works with the Harare police station.  The patrol in M section works with the police from the Lingeletu police station.

What current challenges do you face as a patrol leader?

76When we are on patrol we meet many challenges.  Many people don’t like the patrol. They say we disturb them at night. For example, late at night some people want to play their music very loud during parties, disturbing others.  We ask them to turn the music down so other people can sleep.  But asking people to lower the volume of their music is a small part of what we do.  The more serious problem is shebeens.  On weekends, after pay day, both men and women drink too much and when they leave the shebeen, the skolies wait for them, and rob them and sometimes injure or kill them.  Women are robbed and then often raped.

We typically go to a shebeen…we go inside but some of us stay outside to keep an eye out for troublemakers.  Those of us who go inside must be prepared to search everyone in the shebeen because there are usually some skolies in the shebeens.   As coordinator, I must have permission from the owner of the shebeen to search all of his customers.  But if the owner refuses, I talk with him and tell him we have the right to call the police and that he should help us tell the customers to cooperate.  When we search people, we sometimes find knives, screwdrivers, and the necks of broken bottles.  Some hand over their weapons without trouble.  Others don’t.  We force them to stay and then call the police.  Sometimes the police come in ten minutes because they patrol until 2am along Mew Way. At other times, when they’re busy, we wait in the shebeen for an hour for them to arrive.

What I want to see happen in Monwabisi Park?

I would like to see more people join the patrol.  We now have 50-100 volunteers.  I’d like to have two or three hundred more volunteers because the sections in Monwabisi are big and there are many shebeens.  If we had more volunteers we could patrol early in the morning from five to nine in the morning.  In this way we could help protect people going to work in the early morning when its dark and when they are can be robbed by skolies, and then we can take children to school along Mew Way because that road is very dangerous and children have been killed by speeding vehicles.  We could walk them and help ensure they get to school safely.  I hope to see my community as a peaceful land—no crime, no assaults, only peace in my community.