CPF leader quits

Lee Jepson

Goodwood Community Police Forum (CPF) chairwoman Lee Jepson resigned last week, six months after taking up the five-year post.

She handed in her resignation on Monday April 17 and said it felt like a weight had been lifted off her shoulders.

Ms Jepson said it was an impossible job, which had come with very little support from the CPF executive.

She said every meeting was a fight, and she was “too tired to fight” any further.

This was not the first time she had wanted to give up the post – in November last year, a month after becoming chairwoman, she came under fire for a crime awareness drive at Goodwood Mall, for which she was accused of taking the credit. But she was persuaded to stay on by SAPS and withdrew her resignation.

Ms Jepson said she had also endured a barrage of criticism following a Northern News article, in which she had warned private security companies and neighbourhood watch members not to attack homeless people (“Homeless people beaten”, Northern News, March 22).

“I got flak about the vagrants attack story, yet we knew about that attack prior to you publishing the article,” she said.

Northern News has seen some of the messages on the Goodwood Neighbourhood Watch WhatsApp group, where Ms Jepson, among others, was discussed.

“Jebson (sic) does not want them (homeless people) in her area so starts pointing fingers at others. Everythings (sic) hidden agenda these days,” the person wrote.

But Ms Jepson said she stood by what she had said at the sub-forum meeting on Monday March 13.

“I told the truth. I stick to my guns,” she said.

Northern News reported on an attack on a homeless couple sleeping in the park opposite JG Meiring High School on Saturday February 18. An assault case was opened at Goodwood SAPS, but last week police spokesman Captain Waynne Theunis said the case had been closed “as undetected”.

Although Ms Jepson did not give details of the attack on the couple at the sub-forum meeting, Northern News traced the victims through our investigation.

Ms Jepson said she drew flak for trying to help homeless people, where possible. “Their only crime is that they’re homeless.”

She said residents had to “be responsible when they give”, but homeless people were not driving up crime in the precinct.

“To do good shouldn’t be so difficult,” she said. She plans to continue with community work in Monte Vista and Plattekloof Glen.

She had only praise for Goodwood SAPS, saying they “always had her back”.

“The partnership with SAPS has been outstanding.”

She has also resigned as chairwoman of the Monte Vista Neighbourhood Watch.

In a statement announcing Ms Jepson’s resignation, Tygerberg Cluster Community Police Board chairwoman Lesley Ashton said despite Ms Jepson carrying out all her duties, she “seemingly never had the buy-in of the CPF executive”.

Ms Ashton accused executive and ordinary CPF members of, among other things, flouting the CPF constitution and disrupting the activities of the forum or board, impeding their functioning and sowing division among their members.

The statement also warned that staff shortages at Goodwood SAPS were making it increasingly difficult for officers to perform their duties effectively.

Ms Ashton said the neighbourhood watch members needed “further development” in their understanding of their role.

“Neighbourhood watches are ‘eyes and ears’ only – they are not there to do SAPS work and only have the rights of any other citizen. Neighbourhood watches are formalised in order to be recognised as representatives by SAPS and member organisations of the CPF,” she said.

This is apparently not clear to the watch members, who on Thursday March 23, while again criticising Northern News for publishing the homeless attack story, said on the Goodwood Neighbourhood Watch WhatsApp group that “someone must have reported the issue to the newspaper. They then came to ask questions and made their own conclusions. I think the big confusion is that people think that the neighbourhood watch is reporting into the CPF, and don’t realise these are independent bodies”.

Acting station commander Colonel Hennie Rademeyer said he was shocked by Ms Jepson’s resignation, describing her as “outstanding and a really hard worker”.

“As a chairperson she was willing to take the lead, give guidance and instructions. Very strict but kept one on one’s toes,” he said.

Jas Visser, spokesman for the Glenwood and Goodwood neighbourhood watches, said they had had no official notification of Ms Jepson’s resignation and therefore could not “comment on the rumours”.

“But we are prepared to say that if this is indeed fact, no organisation can operate effectively if this is the churn rate of chairpersons – to have three chairs in such a short space of time, two chairs and one acting, indicates that there could potentially be a deeper underlying problem,” he said in an email on Monday April 24.

On the Tygerberg Cluster Community Police Board statement regarding the role of neighbourhood watches, he said: “It is part and has always been part of our constitution that we are the ‘eyes and ears’ of SAPS, and certainly our operations have never been anything to the contrary of that, so it will be important for us to establish exactly in what context this statement by cluster was made.”

Goodwood CPF did not respond to questions by the time this edition went to print.

* CPF deputy chairwoman Maurisha Nieuwenhuys will act as chairperson in the interim until an election takes place.