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National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF)

Memeza Shout (Pty) Ltd: Director, Ms Thulile Mthethwa

For reducing crime, improving the South African Police Service (SAPS) service levels and creating jobs through innovative communication technology and a private/public partnership business model.

Sponsored by the National Intellectual Property Management Office (NIPMO) since 2019

The 2019/2020 NSTF-South32 for Innovation Award: Small, Medium and Micro Enterprise (SMME) was won by Memeza Shout (Pty) Ltd and its Director, Ms Thulile Mthethwa, for reducing crime, improving the South African Police Service (SAPS) service levels and creating jobs through innovative communication technology and a private/public partnership business model. MeMeZa Shout is the first public alarm system endorsed by the SAPS and the government. It fills the gap where poorer communities need a low-tech low-cost technology that links communities together, is proactive with response networks (like the SAPS), gathers intelligent community-based crime data, and helps to reduce crime. The team is led by Mthethwa and Elmarie Pereira.

Safety. This is a critical area of concern for many South Africans, especially those who don’t have access to alarm systems, guards, and security companies. Everybody has the right to feel safe and be secure. It’s the principle that underpins the small, medium and micro enterprise (SMME), MeMeZa. The company was founded by Thuli Mthethwa and uses technology and business savvy to protect people from harm.

MeMeZa Shout, as an idea, came about when Mthethwa’s sister was the victim of a violent attack in her family home in Tembisa, Johannesburg. She felt that if her sister had had access to something that could protect her — even a simple panic button — then someone could have come to her aid.

This type of violence is a stark reality for many and inspired Mthethwa to make a tangible difference with a practical solution. She worked with the Innovation Hub and the Centre for Public Service Innovation and obtained funding from public-private partnerships. The result was the creation of the first public alarm system endorsed by the South African Police Services (SAPS) and the government.

The solution uses a back-end management system that collects data and community-based intelligence, allowing for security in high-risk areas. Over the past five years, the MeMeZa team has proven that this relatively low-tech innovation can have an impact, with a significant reduction in crime. The team is led by Mthethwa, a victim of rape and gender-based violence (GBV), and Elmarie Pereira, who lost her sister to GBV.

“MeMeZa’s vision is aligned to the South African National Development Plan on safety that states, by 2030, people in South Africa should have no fear of crime, and that women and children and the vulnerable should feel protected,” says Mthethwa. “Our dream is that every vulnerable person living in South Africa can access safety technology. The next step in our journey is Africa, and replicating the model of public-private partnerships to successfully reduce crime in neighbouring countries experiencing similar challenges.”

The statistics back MeMeZa up. To date, the team has seen as 67% reduction in sexual offences in Mashamplane; a 9% reduction in the murder rate in Diepsloot; 98% theft protection in 150 no-fee rural and township schools and ICT protected labs in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape; a 43% improvement in SAPS response times to crime in low-income communities; and more than 348 000 vulnerable people equipped with the MeMeZa security technology.  — Tamsin Oxford

To read the full Mail & Guardian supplement of articles about the work of all the 2020 Award Winners, click here.

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