Fed up with the escalating crime rate in their neighbourhood, Selepa residents have banded together to take a stand.
Muggings, burglaries and even stabbings have become increasingly common in the once-peaceful Francistown suburb, with the location’s numerous bushy areas providing the perfect cover for criminals.
It is against this backdrop that, at six o’clock on Saturday morning, 25 hardy souls could be found hard at work de-bushing the overgrown area behind Selepa tuckshops.
Organised by the location’s Crime Prevention Cluster, the initiative is the first step in the newly formed group’s bid to ‘take back our Selepa’.
Speaking to The Voice as she took a short break from cutting grass and chopping trees, the group’s Chairperson, Yolanda Hutton said, “This is just the start. We are planning to de-bush the rest of the area.
“We also intend to introduce neighbourhood patrols at night and are planning a clean-up walk on Saturday the 22nd (September) where we will be going around picking up litter.”
Wiping sweat from her brow, her face crimson with exertion despite the relatively cool conditions, Hutton said she was pleased with the turnout but urged others to follow suit.
“This is a community initiative. We’re appealing to other people living in Selepa to give us a hand – this is for their benefit after all and we can’t do it without them!”
Having lived in the area for just over six years, Hutton said it was noticeable just how much crime had risen in recent times.
“It’s definitely getting worse, to the point that it’s no longer safe to walk the streets anymore, especially after sunset.”
Reiterating these sentiments, Acting Station Commander for Kutlwano, Alice Oabile revealed that Selepa experiences the highest number of break-ins in her policing area.
“It’s a growing problem, both in the day and at night. We believe the people committing these crimes take advantage of the bushy areas, lying in wait for unsuspecting victims,” explained the Superintendent, adding that the thieves were becoming progressively bolder and even arming themselves with knives.
“Muggings are also increasing. In most cases they take cell phones, cash and handbags,” continued Oabile, who warned that although no murders had been committed yet, she fears it is only a matter of time unless immediate action is taken.
“Hence the importance of this de-bushing campaign, as there will be less places for the criminals to hide.” she stated.
One of the residents who took part in the bush clearing, 44-year-old Uyapo Modo, whose house was broken into last year, described the initiative as ‘much-needed’.
“We’re tired off theses bandits terrorising our community; enough is enough, it’s time to take a stand,” he declared, hacking wildly at a particularly stubborn bit of shrub, his small axe glistening menacingly in the morning sun.