It’s wonderful to know that visitors to the Cape Town CBD and Bo-Kaap can rely on extra pairs of eyes and ears to keep them safe, while they take in the breath-taking beauty of the Mother City.
A group of individuals called Tourism Safety Ambassadors, guide locals and visitors around the city, offer advice, share safety tips and keep a keen eye out for any suspicious behaviour.
They are appointed by Cape Town Tourism within a short space of time, have notched up some notable successes.
The ambassadors work closely with their partners in crime prevention such as the Bo-Kaap neighbourhood watch, the Central City Improvement District (CCID) and the South African Police Service.
The ambassadors keep in touch with each other via a WhatsApp group, and recently have stopped several criminals in their tracks.
They were instrumental in the bust and arrest of a gang of 10 ATM credit card scammers who were targeting mainly tourists, and they prevented several attempted muggings of tourists.
If visitors haven’t been here before, they also assist lost tourists by walking with them to the attractions they were looking for and accompanying them back to the Cape Town Tourism offices.
The City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Economic Opportunities and Asset Management, Alderman James Vos, met with the Tourism Safety Ambassadors this week to present them with a certificate of commendation for the great work they are doing and to acknowledge their successes to date.
“I tip my hat to this group of young people who are going about their task without fear. They are disrupting the tourism hotspots where criminals were becoming a nuisance by preying on unsuspecting locals and visitors to the city. Some of them have been threatened but this has not deterred them from doing what they have been trained to do best. Instead they have soldiered on and notched up some really good successes.”
The Tourism Safety Ambassadors have become a familiar sight on the streets at tourist hotspots and they have earned the trust of many local business owners as well as residents who know them by name. In some instances, community members come to their assistance when they detain a perpetrator while waiting for SAPS to arrive and make the arrest.
One of the ambassadors, and someone you don’t want to mess with, is Munifa Canterbury, a 4th dan black belt martial arts instructor and competitor. Not only does she have her South African colours but is the All Africa champion in kata.
Munifa lives in the Bo-Kaap and making a difference in her community has always been a passion. She says being a tourism safety officer has given her the platform to put some of her skills into action while earning an income that has in turn benefitted her household.
Cleo Moses, who lives in Elsies River, says he is extremely grateful to be chosen to be a part of this ambassador programme. Being jobless after completing her tertiary studies brought a sense of discouragement and low self-esteem to her for about two years, as it did to a number of other young people in her area.
“The programme has challenged me to escape from my comfort zone and interact with strangers, many of them tourists who depend on me to provide information and guidance on their safety. I have become conscious about my approach to a stranger, how I engage with them and share information that I need to convey about their safety. I have learned to speak slowly and clearly, as I tend to become nervous when I have to approach a group of people. This has really helped to boost my confidence in public speaking. The ability to develop my listening and speaking skills and broaden my knowledge about Cape Town as a tourist destination has also had a positive impact on my group work skills. To be able to work in a group requires communication and trust.”
Well done to these Tourism Safety Ambassadors, they clearly know how important it is to keep all our visitors safe so they can return to our shores!