School of Religion, Philosophy & Classics

Championing the Community of Umbilo

Photos: Supplied

In the bustling suburb of Umbilo in Durban, community safety has become a top priority thanks to the tireless efforts of Mr Calvin Thomas, Manager of UKZN’s School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics. As a dedicated member of the Community Policing Forum (CPF), Thomas has worked tirelessly to connect residents and the South African Police Service (SAPS) to ensure that his neighbourhood remains a safe place to live in.

Thomas’ motivation for joining the CPF was born out of a deep concern for his community’s safety. He realised that the lack of a functioning CPF Glenwood – Sector 2 and Umbilo – Sector 3 placed the residents at risk, and he was determined to make a difference. ‘I wanted to help build good relations between residents and the police, and create a safer environment for everyone,’ he said.

Through his efforts, Thomas helped to establish three fully functioning sub-forum CPFs and an active Executive CPF for Umbilo. He has also created an Operations WhatsApp group that connects SAPS, CPF, Patrollers, and Security companies. This group has become an essential tool for sharing information and coordinating responses to incidents reported on community WhatsApp groups. Most of his CPF work is done during the evenings on specific days.

Balancing his work, family, Master of Ethics studies and CPF responsibilities is no easy feat, but Thomas has managed to find a way. He credits his supportive wife and children for helping him to maintain the delicate balance needed to stay on top of everything.

During the looting and unrest that swept through KwaZulu-Natal in July 2021, Thomas and his fellow community members rallied to protect their neighbourhoods. They manned checkpoints and patrolled shopping malls, putting their lives on the line to prevent opportunistic criminals from causing further harm. ‘Many of us [only] slept for 2-3 hours a day [while] manning check points and malls. Tensions were high and people were both scared and anxious,’ he said.

Thomas has also appeared on news channels such as Newsroom Afrika talking about the CPF in relation to the EFF shutdown on 20 March 2023. The EFF Provincial office is situated in Bulwer, which falls under the Umbilo Policing Area.

The mandate of the Umbilo CPF is to hold SAPS accountable for service delivery and foster good relations between residents, CPF, and SAPS. At CPF meetings, emerging crime trends and policing strategies are discussed, and plans are made to counteract them. UKZN Risk Management Services, which represents the students who reside in the area, attends these meetings to ensure that everyone is involved in creating a safer environment.

 Thomas believes that community involvement is crucial in maintaining a safe and secure neighbourhood. With limited SAPS resources, each resident has a responsibility to ensure their safety and the safety of their community. He urges more people to join active patrols or become the eyes and ears of their community by sharing information on WhatsApp groups.

In the end, it’s the dedication and commitment of individuals like Thomas that make a difference in their communities. Through his work with the CPF, he has helped to create a safer and more secure Umbilo, one that he is proud to call home.