During the holiday season our anxiety about security increases because it is known that the criminals are more active at this time of year. Although, having said that, most of us have to be cautious at all times of the year. Family of Hope Services, for instance, was robbed three times in 2015 — once in February when they stole all of our food, school uniforms, computer equipment, cooking gas and furniture not to mention the cost of replacing the doors they broke; again in August when they stole a computer and the food; and then again two weeks ago when 14 chairs were taken from our centre in Havana. You have to ask yourself what kind of people steal from children who have nothing, and from a charity that works on a shoe string with donated equipment? Yet we are fortunate to have a donor who recently paid for a good alarm system and cameras throughout our property so that the criminals will be caught next time they try to break-in. But that doesn’t solve the problem of crime that touches everyone here. So what do we do in Katutura?
Johannes David, who is the President of the Women and Men’s Network in Katutura, believes it is incumbent upon all of us to work together to tackle the situation. Johannes said that people complain about the police not helping them, yet the police can’t see what is going on everywhere in Katutura and so the community needs to fight crime together with the police. That is the premise behind the Women and Men’s Network which was established in 2012 through the Moses Garoeb Constituency Office of Councillor David Martin, and under the direction of Police Warrant-Officer Christine Fonsech who successfully launched a similar approach in the north.
How Does it Work?
The Women and Men’s Network is made up entirely of community volunteers who are committed to making our neighbourhoods safer places to live. Each volunteer is given training to ensure they are clear on what they can and cannot do; how to respond to various situations; and that they always work within the law. Each member is signed up through their local Branch office and responds accordingly.
There are a number of ways in which members serve. The first way is when the police request their presence and support. For example, the police might want to monitor an area at month end and so they will contact Johannes David and ask if, for example, 40 people can patrol a certain area between specific hours. Johannes then calls the commander under him who is responsible for the Branch where the area is located, and the commander will send out an SMS to mobilize the volunteer members from his Branch. The members go to their nearest police office and book in before they go on patrol, and they book out once they are finished with the patrol. If members see a situation, they report it immediately. If it is something they can solve on their own they will explain the situation and act according to direction given. On occasion they can resolve disputes and prevent fights simply by mediating. But they do not act if there is any possible violence. The police are called in immediately and the member monitors the situation until the police arrive.
Another way in which members are mobilized is when people from the community call them for help. Again they book in and out at the nearest police station. They can be called to address a wide range of issues including fights, domestic violence, theft, medical emergencies, neighbour disputes, water problems with local taps, okambashu fires, and the list goes on.
When members are called to react to an emergency they don’t have time to book in at the police station so they are encouraged to carry a small notebook and they write down the details for booking in after they’ve responded to the situation. All members are trained to obey the law themselves and to act only when permitted.
Other ways in which members help include working with organizations such as ours. Family of Hope Services has received support from the Women and Men’s Network on a number of occasions. They provided security and crowd control when we worked with Home Affairs to sign up thousands of people in the Moses Garoeb Constituency for birth registration. They have also helped us organize and manage children when we have events or celebrations where hundreds of children are invited.
How Many Members Are There?
Johannes David said that when the Network was first launched they had over 5,500 people sign up. Since then approximately 1,500 have dropped out, mostly because they thought they would be paid for the work or that they would get a job as a result of it. To date there are 4,000 active volunteers working with the Women and Men’s network in Katutura to make a real difference in our community. And they do! They solve a lot of disputes and break up fights and generally keep our community much safer than it used to be.
So what does it take to head up such an organization?
This is a community effort and in addition to the 4,000 members who patrol the streets and help to fight crime, the Branch commanders and Johannes David himself work tirelessly to coordinate and respond to the never-ending requests. Johannes, works full-time for the City of Windhoek as an Electrical Assistant and while he is given some leeway at his job because of the demands of his important volunteer work, he finds himself living his life with very little sleep. In addition to his work with the City, Johannes is also an elected Community Leader within his Branch responding to a myriad of requests within his area; a member of Councilor David Martin’s Community Development Committee working to build and improve the local infrastructure and services; and a SWAPO leader. In his position as President of the Women and Men’s Network he is involved in all of the planning and strategic meetings plus he fields upwards of 10 to 40 calls a night to mobilize Member call-outs. Each call-out requires his monitoring and follow-up with the police. This is a selfless job and one that only someone who feels compelled to help our brothers and sisters live in a better world, is capable of doing. Johannes sees this as his calling. He grew up with the brave men and women fighting for human rights for the Namibian nation, and this has motivated him to commit himself to the continued development of the country. His reward is seeing crime go down and things improving and he gains his energy from the the gratitude and appreciation of all of his constituents.
How Can You Get Involved?
If you want to join the Women and Men’s Network and help fight crime in our community, please contact your local Branch leader. You can fill out a form and get the ball rolling from there.
A HUGE Thank You From Us!
In this festive season where we focus on giving to each other, Family of Hope Services would like to thank Johannes David and all of the members of the Women and Men’s Network who give tirelessly of themselves to make our communities better places for all of us to live. We’d also like to thank Moses Garoeb Councilor David Martin and Police Warrant-Officer Christine Fonsech for getting this initiative underway; the police officers with the City Police and NAMPOL who risk their lives for us on a daily basis; and to all of the reservists who volunteer their time as well to protect our families and friends.