Let’s put safety at the core of South Africa’s national urban development framework

Let’s put safety at the core of South Africa’s national urban development framework – Blog

Alexandra township and Sandton business district in Johannesburg: Inequality in South Africa's cities and towns is strong driver of violence and crime.

Alexandra township and Sandton business district in Johannesburg: Inequality in South Africa's cities and towns is strong driver of violence and crime.

South Africa is in the process of developing a national framework to manage urbanisation and create more dynamic and integrated urban spaces. The Integrated Urban Development Framework (IUDF) is currently out for public consultation. Siphelele Ngobese, Co-ordinator of the Urban Safety Reference Group hosted by the South African Cities Network (SACN) explains why community safety and violence and crime prevention should be an integral part of the IUDF and encourages you to contribute to the debate.


South African cities hold enormous potential to advance economic development and social inclusion in the country, if managed and supported appropriately. They are attractive as hubs of economic opportunity and will continue to attract increasing numbers of migrants in the coming decades. As such, South Africa’s cities are inextricably linked to overall national economic growth and key to leveraging both urban and rural development.

The Integrated Urban Development Framework (IUDF) is a policy framework intended to help South Africa reap the benefits of having a majority urbanised (and urbanising) population and to deal with the many challenges the country’s cities and towns face.

Its vision is for ‘liveable, safe, resource-efficient cities and towns that are socially integrated, economically inclusive and globally competitive, where residents feel safe and actively participate in urban life’. Within this vision, community safety is considered as a key outcome, acknowledging that, besides safety being a public good in itself, high rates of violence and crime in South Africa’s urban areas place the achievement of other core economic and social outcomes in jeopardy.

Urban safety and the role of local government

As a policy instrument with a strong focus on local government, the IUDF provides a great opportunity to highlight and strengthen the role of this sphere of government in building safer communities.

Urban safety should be defined more broadly to encompass not only the traditional safety functions of municipalities, like traffic safety, emergency services or disaster risk  management, but also social violence and crime prevention. Violence and crime must be understood as not only security or policing concerns, but as deeply embedded in socio-economic realities that local government has (or should have) the power to help transform.  

However, clarity and guidance on what exactly city governments and other municipalities need to do in this regard is required. What specific social services and infrastructure should (or could) municipalities provide directly that contribute to community safety and violence and crime prevention, which functions should other spheres of government be responsible for, and what is the role of municipalities in coordinating the different contributions to community safety at local level?

Ideally, every city and municipality in South Africa should define their contribution to community safety through dedicated plans that are incorporated into five-year Integrated Development Plans and longer-term city development strategies. These plans should respond to the drivers of violence and crime at local level, and show how the positive energies of communities and all other stakeholders to producing safer communities will be harnessed through, for example, Community Safety Fora, Community Policing Fora, ward committees, youth structures and other mechanisms for participation.

Apart from the personal and economic consequences, one of the most damaging effects of violence and crime in South Africa’s cities has been a retreat from public spaces owing to a lack of safety (whether real or perceived). Public spaces enable and help generate social cohesion, which is a key attribute of liveable and prosperous cities. Therefore, urban public spaces and facilities must be designed and managed in a way that promotes community safety and makes citizens feel safe from violence and crime.

Make your voice heard: Join the call for safety as a key aspect of urban development!

The IUDF will shape how South Africa manages urbanisations for years to come. Safety is a core element of the framework.

The IUDF provides a unique chance to position urban safety and violence and crime prevention as a critical aspect in how we think about, and build, South Africa’s urban future.

As part of the current IUDF stakeholder consultation process, we invite and encourage readers to engage with and give feedback on the draft IUDF document (Download here) from an urban safety perspective.

Currently, dedicated content relating to urban safety is included in the general introduction (see page 21) and a proposed set of recommended  interventions in the chapter titled Policy Lever 3: Integrated and Sustainable Human Settlements (see page 50). 

Comments and suggestions concerning this existing content, as well as how interventions to enhance urban safety can be more strongly integrated into the other policy levers in the IUDF, are invited. A background paper on urban safety, that was prepared as one of the thematic inputs for the development of the IUDF, can be accessed here.

Over the coming weeks, the SaferSpaces portal will be running a special focus on urban safety. Look out for further invitations to give your inputs into the IUDF, and for interesting articles and resources on urban safety and violence and crime prevention.  

Please send any feedback and suggestions regarding the IUDF and urban safety, or any interesting articles or multi-media contributions you would like to share, to contact@saferspace.org.za 

For more information and latest developments on the IUDF, also visit www.iudf.net

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