JONGA is a proudly South African home security system, invented by Ntsako Mgiba with the help of the Santam Safety Ideas campaign.
The scourge of crime in South Africa has reach pandemic
proportions, impacting citizens wherever they may be. As levels of crime
continue to rise, South Africans move towards safeguarding themselves against
attack. For those with access to resources, houses become impenetrable
compounds – complete with physical barriers and technologically advanced
security systems, intended to keep intruders out.
The inequality of safety and security in South Africa
Comfort through safety and security, however, is a privilege
afforded to few; particularly within the South African context, which exemplifies
a massive socioeconomic disparity. Low-income households, unguarded by
expensive suburban security systems, are left to the mercy of criminals. While
home invasions which take place in the suburbs of South Africa find their way
into the headlines, it may be easy to forget that the areas hardest hit by
crime are low-income communities.
Last year, the South African Police Service (SAPS), released its annual crime statistics report, in association with Stats SA. While reports of residential robberies had dropped slightly from 2017, the figure still sits uncomfortably high. The report estimates that 22 261 cases of residential robbery were reported between 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2018.
The biggest increases of residential robberies, on a
provincial level, were recorded in the Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and Limpopo
Province – regions which are generally poorer and more rural than the rest of
According to the same report, only one area classified as ‘high income’ made the “worst ten precincts for robbery at residential premises” list. All other areas listed are low-income precincts with a disproportionately high unemployment rate.
Necessity – the mother of invention
Witbank topped the residential burglary list – a dubious dishonour.
It was in this area, where Ntsako Mgiba had an epiphany. One night, while visiting
his aunt and cousin in the Witbank Township, unscrupulous criminals burgled her
house and five others while the occupants were asleep.
It was this brazen, unmitigated act of criminality which
birthed JONGA – the Xhosa word which means “to watch”.
Ideally, would-be home invaders would be barred from entry by preventative security methods – high walls, electric fencing, burglar bars and hi-tech detection systems. Unfortunately, for low-income households, these systems are too expensive to access. For Mgiba, staying one step ahead of criminals is the key to crime prevention.
JONGA is a low-cost, low-tech security system that sends a notification to your paired smartphone when something triggers the motion sensors in your home. The sensor itself is wireless, allowing for seamless repositioning. The device utilises energy-saving technology, which ensures that it will keep watch over your household for seven years, before needing to be replaced.
The magic is in the mobile pairing by way of the JONGA app.
If the motion detector is triggered, it will immediately send a notification to
your cell phone. If you suspect foul play, you can hit the panic button, which
alerts the neighbours and the local policing forum. Mgiba explained the security
system in his own words, saying:
“The idea is a low-cost community-based alarm system for townships and other low-income communities. It allows for real-time crime reporting and community-based responses.
Safety is important to me, because I view it on a justice level and how only a few people can actually afford to be safe, which, for me, is a great injustice.
There are just so many people like my aunt who are out there, women who stay by themselves with young children and they’re vulnerable.
That’s what keeps me going – if I don’t work on a solution, I can’t just expect that someone else will.”
JONGA partners with Santam Safety Ideas
What started as a dream began its journey to fruition when Mgiba
co-founded JONGA with Ntandoyenkosi Shezi and Matthew Tait through UCT
Up-Starts during his second year at the University of Cape Town. It was in 2017
when JONGA was entered into the Santam Safety Ideas campaign – this was a
monumental turning point for Mgiba and his invention.
JONGA won the first season of the Santam Safety Ideas campaign, which earned them start-up capital of R200 000 and the opportunity to participate in the 10X Entrepreneurship Programme. Access to Santam’s incubation process amalgamated raw ingenuity with businesses finesse. JONGA joined the Sanlam Enterprise and Supplier Development (ESD) Programme. Mgiba noted the invaluable expertise and guidance afforded to his team through ESD programme:
“We are currently learning a lot about financial modelling and building a robust business plan to help us raise the kind of money we need to commercialise our solution.
The programme is usually for companies further down the line than us so a lot of effort is going into tailoring it so that it can accommodate a start-up and we’re finding it all very helpful. It’s just been absolutely amazing the kind of support we’re receiving.”
As with every good story, the motif of sacrifice plays a
pivotal role. In order to pursue JONGA wholeheartedly, Mgiba gave up his
bursary and turned down a job at Sasol. Naturally, the decision to run headlong
into his dream of entrepreneurship didn’t come easy, explained Mgiba:
“It was not an easy decision at all. I realised that the opportunity I had before me was a really good one and I didn’t want to put it aside and one day look back and have regrets.”
Looking to the future
Following a considered and lengthy consumer review survey,
the first JONGA units are expected to make their inaugural appearance in Litha
Park in Khayelitsha, towards the end of March. In addition to keeping
communities safe, JONGA has created job opportunities for youngsters from
embattled backgrounds. Mgiba explained:
“We have already created employment opportunities in the form of JONGA agents who are currently signing up homes onto a JONGA community WhatsApp group, so they’re helping us get a captive audience.”
Despite the progressive leaps and bounds made by JONGA, in
association with the Santam Safety Ideas campaign, the ethos attached to the
product remains true to its beginnings. The ethics of ‘justice for all’ are
what drive Mgiba onwards in his pursuit of safety and security in the townships
of South Africa. Looking to the future, which indeed appears bright, Mgiba
“We have an awesome opportunity to connect communities together. Our tagline is ‘introducing safety and security into townships’ and that’s really my passion. How can we start to restore dignity and integrity to our people and provide them with services that are not only extracting value but adding value?”
The Santam Safety Ideas campaign, founded in 2017, is about empowering innovative solutions for a safer
future. In partnership with LaunchLab, a network of African university
campus-based business incubator, the campaign aims to reward ingenuity within
the safety sector.
The annual challenge
is open to university students and FinTech/InsurTech start-ups, who are
requested to submit video entries explaining their safety ideas. The winning
idea within the FinTech and InsurTech category will win R150 000 worth of
Incubation support and R200 000 in seed funding. University students with the winning
idea could stand a chance to receive R100 000 to fund the developmental costs
of their safety solution.
This year’s top 10 shortlist will be announced on the 27th of March.
This article was paid for by Santam.
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