Durban: The Msunduzi Municipality has warned residents in Mountain Rise, Pietermaritzburg, to remove the boom gates that they installed after July's unrest. But the residents have refused to adhere to the verbal warning.
"We will not remove the boom gates because it is a security measure to prevent crime," said one resident, who declined to be named.
"Crime in Mountain Rise has been an issue for about 15 years. Back then, we installed alarms and that progressed to CCTV cameras. More recently, we have armed guards after some of the residents, who are businessmen, received threatening messages."
The residents said robberies and hijackings were a concern.
"During the unrest, those living in a nearby informal settlement were seen carrying looted items to their homes. As the looting progressed, we feared our homes would be targeted so we had the boom gates installed at the entry and exit spots.
"We monitored who was entering and leaving and for a short period. However, when the army was deployed and calm was restored, the boom gates were raised but we chose not to remove them. This was because the residents felt it was added security.
"Recently, two municipal officials visited the area. They claimed they received complaints from people in the area that we were stopping non-residents from entering. The officials gave us a verbal warning. They want the boom gates removed. But we are not prepared to adhere to this. We are protecting ourselves. The police do not have enough resources to patrol the neighbourhoods, so we need to protect our families. We are not doing anything wrong."
Omar Mehmood, an ANC councillor, said "This is not a racially motivated issue. People are not being kept out of the area. I am in discussion with the residents and the municipality to find a way forward."
Thobeka Mafumbatha, the spokesperson for the Msunduzi Municipality, said according to municipal bylaws Section 10 and 17, the community was not allowed to install boom gates in public areas.
"If the issue is a crime then they need to liaise with SAPS on how the community can start community forums in the area. Anyone that breaks the bylaws, action will be taken against them."
Mary de Haas, the KZN violence monitor, said one could understand the community's fears but municipal laws do not allow public roads to be blocked.
"It can be a short-term solution to massive unrest, as in July, but only if done with the permission of, and in collaboration with, the police. The CPF forums need to be active. They must identify problematic police and support good policing. In cases like this, they must supplement the shortages of police with community patrols, but I must stress, with the knowledge of the police."
She said people – and not just political party representatives – should be more active in working with the police.
"This the only way to hold bad policing to account. They can take up issues with police management if the police are not doing their jobs. It is the only way we are going to get improvements in policing. Some management is doing its best, but it needs community support. Issues relating to bad policing must be taken up with complaints."
She said in some of the urban areas of Durban during the lawlessness in July, members of CPFs were working with the police to block off some of the smaller roads. De Haas said the public also assisted short-staffed stations by patrolling areas.
"I should add that long before what happened in July, the eThekwini Municipality had forced people to remove booms blocking thoroughfare of public roads. Similarly, security companies working in a specific area should be known to the police as they too supplement police services, but collaboration is the important factor."
Nqobile Gwala, a police spokesperson, said residents needed to report matters of crime to police.