WhatsApp groups…

Steve Page, Table View

It’s a very sensible thing in this day and age, but I believe this particular group is often not being used for its intended purposes.

Surely the function of this group should be to keep neighbours informed of suspicious activities or direct threat and report where applicable to either the neighbourhood watch, the local security companies or the police if necessary?

However, what seems to happen more often than not is that a large portion of the reporting relates to non-locals in the area or moving through the area, and this is often reported as “scouting” by a member of the group.

This then seems to convey a right to the controlling clique within the group. The person is often just using either Visagie Road or Birkenhead Road as a short cut instead of walking the long way around via Blaauwberg Road.

They may even be sitting in the local park minding their own business. Either way, they are approached and at best made to feel unwelcome. The problem I have is this: the locals approaching the person will do so under the guise of, “Can I help you at all?” But the real intention is clear: “You are not local, we do not want you here and we would prefer if you left.”

By what authority does this person have the right to do this? None. What training does that person have in the event of things falling apart? Likely none.

Walking around with a walkie talkie in your pocket is of little assistance when things go pear-shaped quickly.

There are existing channels that are both prepared and paid to attend to these matters. Over the three years that I have been a member of this group, many people have left it complaining of racial undertones due to content within the group.

This is not necessarily a reflection on the controlling clique of the group as they have no control of individual opinions.

However, it is a fact that virtually all movement reported and persons approached relate to non-whites.

This is supposed to be an emergency group for the area, but the admin removes many people simply for having different views.

Also on bin day, the same clique of persons will often approach vagrants and “ask them to move on” and make them as unwelcome as possible.

By what right and by whose authority? This emergency chat group should not be subject to the whims and opinions of this small clique as to what is and what is not acceptable for the area. And because the group is for emergencies, it shouldn’t be for a small clique to decide who to include or exclude in it.

The bottom line is there is a small group people who control of an emergency WhatsApp group, and they seem intent on enforcing their own rules for the area. They likely believe they are doing some good and I have no doubt that, in many instances, they are.

But the conduct and blanket approach applied by this clique is exactly what got this country into trouble in the first place.

There can no longer be an “us” and “them”. The “not on our doorstep approach” can also not be condoned.

Barbara Henninger, an admin of the Waves Edge WhatsApp group, responds:

What has led to Steve Page’s unfounded allegations and fabrication is the following: On March 20 during load shedding, a resident from Athens Road (he happens to be white) forwarded an audio recording of a joke about Eskom.

Due to previous complaints about people posting non-emergency issues on the emergency group, we warned residents that people would be removed for doing this without debate. So the resident was removed from the group.

Thirty minutes after I posted “this is unacceptable to put on the emergency group” Steve Page’s daughter posted 17 laughing emoticons and she too was removed immediately.

Following this, Steve Page posted on the emergency group, asking to be removed.

I did as requested. After this, it was again posted on the Facebook group that residents will be removed if they post and disturb the more than 100 members on the group for non-emergency issues.

I posted the allegations made by Steve Page on our Facebook group and within minutes residents posted comments in support of the group. This letter is an unfounded, vindictive attempt to cause trouble.

The facts are that this is an emergency WhatsApp group with 145 members on it, which covers several roads and is not linked to any organisation such as the community police forum or Table View Neighbourhood Watch.

On this group we have residents of all colours, religions and cultures.

We currently have black, white, coloured, Chinese, Libyan, Muslim members, and no complaint has ever been made to me or on the group.

This group is for emergencies only – akin to a panic button where life or property are in imminent danger.

When residents are added, they are told that contravention of the rules will result in immediate removal. We have an informal community Facebook group of 242 residents which is not linked to any organisation.

Issues such as power outages, burst water pipes and general topics are discussed.

Rules include no racism, politics, religion or any other “isms”.

In 2017 I had to remove two white members for contravening the rules – one for a racist comment and one for promoting a political party.

We pride ourselves on adhering not only to the Facebook rules governing what is not acceptable but that nothing unkind, untrue or nasty should be aired on our group.

We have had healthy discussions about issues such as the fireworks issue – some for, some against but no-one has ever sunk to the level of trying to create a divide in a community where there is none.