As an MCSI member I’ve attended a good few Muizenberg Moonlight Meanders – sometimes because my dog and I both needed the exercise, sometimes because the evening was too irresistibly gorgeous, and sometimes (when the weather has been foul!) I couldn’t remember why I agreed to participate in this madness at all!
But last night for the first time, I also experienced the community walk as a form of activism – asserting our right as a community to BE on the beach, to own it as OUR place, and to send a statement to the predators who attempt to terrorize us that we will NOT be bullied into submission!
There were only 5 of us MCSI members available on this particular night to escort the 60+ walkers who arrived to do the walk. Just before the start we got word on the MCSI Alerts group that four youths had been spotted near Sunrise Beach – and that they looked a lot like the same group that had robbed people on the previous Monday night. Members of Marine Estate Watch and MCSI’s Special Response Team (SRT) sprang into action and got down there to check out the situation – they reported back to us that the group was lurking in the dunes near to the lifesaving buildings and so we were on tenterhooks. I felt genuinely grateful for having been issued with a radio which was keeping us patrollers on the walk in contact with each other and with the SRT so that we could get updates on the situation.
It was still twilight as we set off, but the darkness was falling quickly, and I must say I was feeling hyper-vigilant – instead of ambling along and chatting and taking moon pictures I just had my head swiveled towards the dunes the whole time checking for movement.
As is to be expected the group started out by keeping together quite nicely, but inevitably some people get tired quickly while others rush ahead and by the time we passed the vlei mouth we were already quite strung out which was making me more anxious. I don’t think all the walkers had a good sense of the danger that darkness could bring on the beach – I stopped one mother who was turning back early with her 2 children and asked her, under no circumstances, to walk back alone because we had reports of youths out in the dunes. She seemed surprised.
Eventually I radioed ahead to the leader to tell him how far apart we’d drifted and he turned the lead group around. At that point 4 men seemed to appear out of nowhere – they headed towards one of the watch members who was walking near the edge of the dunes with a torch. Phew, those radios came in handy! The group leader quickly radioed “Look out, they’re right behind you!”. He whipped round, and the four men circled round him in a bunch and then, thankfully, walked on. I was horrified at what I’d just witnessed – the suddenness, the proximity, the body language – they all spelled DANGER quite clearly!
As we continued walking back towards Surfers Corner, they sauntered to their car – and then as a group turned around and waving their arms shouted “BYE! BYE!”. It made my blood run cold as it felt like a battle cry. And YET, we were out in numbers, we were alert to their presence, and they could not triumph over us this night. I felt both scared and elated at the same time.
Soon after, MCSI’s SRT members and GRIT arrived at Sunrise circle and managed to apprehend the group, and SAPS was called in to make an arrest and take them to the police station. A very fitting outcome indeed – well done!
To me this just sums up “working together as a community” in all the best senses – there is a place for everyone in this scenario: from the stalwarts of Safer Together who faithfully keep this event alive each month, to the community members who show up in numbers to join in and be among neighbours and friends, to the inexperienced watch members like me – who can play a small but useful role once a month, to the heroes of the special response team who are willing to confront at the sharp end of things and work with SAPS to make arrests.
Let’s stand together and be activists: stand AGAINST crime, stand FOR community and safety!