The Social Justice Coalition (SJC) is a membership-based organisation. Our members are primarily poor working class people living in Khayelitsha, Kraaifontein, Nyanga, Philippi and other areas across Cape Town. Since our inception our work has had a marked situational crime prevention focus.
One of the SJC’s first campaign’s focused on the lack of safety experienced by our members and other residents of informal settlements when making use of either shared communal flush toilets, “temporary” chemical toilets (outside of the home) or clearings to relieve themselves. As a result the SJC has consistently campaigned for a greater budget share to ensure that access to safe and dignified sanitation is progressively realized.
The City of Cape Town (the City) has opposed our sanitation campaign and has dismissed the situational crime prevention argument by insisting that the lack of safety experienced by residents is to be blamed on the South African Police Service (SAPS). The SJC has taken a more nuanced approach highlighting the failures of both the City and the SAPS.
In order to ensure the accountability of the SAPS, the SJC successfully campaigned for the convening of the Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of Police Inefficiency and a Breakdown in Relations between SAPS and the Community of Khayelitsha (the Commission). Even though the terms of reference of the Commission were limited to the work of the SAPS the Commission did speak to the need for situational crime prevention. For one the Commission found that in Khayelitsha “there is no doubt that inadequate lighting is a security issue.”
On paper, and in theory, The City of Cape Town, it would appear, agrees with the statement “inadequate lighting is a security issue.” In a document titled Design and Management Guidelines for a Safer City, the City states, “Good lighting is one of the most effective means of increasing levels of safety and deterring crime”.
Given the SJC’s situational crime prevention work we were interested to determine the extent of “inadequate lighting” in Khayelitsha and to what extent the City’s Guidelines for a Safer City has been met.
Below is a map centred on Khayelitsha that we requested and received from the City of Cape Town’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) department.
If one considers that the City’s Guidelines for a Safer City characterizes “effective public lighting” as lighting on poles approximately 3 meters high and at intervals of 8 to 10 meters, it is clear that Khayelitsha lacks “one of the most effective means of increasing levels of safety and deterring crime”. If one considers that the City’s guidelines argue that “high-mast spotlights that cast dark shadows” should be avoided, it is clear that Khayelitsha lacks adequate lighting.
The map also makes it clear that the distribution of public lighting between communities is inequitable. The map reveals that historical black African townships, like Khayelitsha, receive mostly high-mast spotlights “that cast dark shadows” and that “effective public lighting” is almost entirely reserved for main roads, thoroughfares and other communities.
In his testimony to the Commission, Executive Director for the City of Cape Town Safety and Security, Richard Bosman, stated that high-mast lights were only provided “where it is not possible to install street lighting, because there are no roads.”
However, contrary to this stated approach, the map makes it abundantly clear that both formal and informal areas, areas with roads and without, are predominantly provided with high-mast lights only.
The implications of this are literally life and death.
The primary purpose of public lighting is nighttime visibility for security and safety in public. Now consider the compounding effect of only having access to a toilet in the public realm, at some distance from your home, and having to access that toilet with inadequate lighting. The very real risk to bodily integrity is here only overshadowed by the near constant fear all informal settlement residents in Khayelitsha must live with.
Khayelitsha’s public transport users must leave their homes with similar degrees of trepidation.
Given the consequences of apartheid spatial planning, Khayelitsha’s position on the urban edge and Cape Town’s extreme levels of traffic congestion, the worst in the country, Khayelitsha’s public transport users, up to 95% of residents, are often required to leave home before sunrise and often get home after sunset. On 21 June, the shortest day of the year, the sun only rises 10 to 15 minutes before 08:00 and sets 10 to 15 minutes before 18:00.
According to the City of Cape Town’s Transport Authority the average direct transport cost for this public transport user group (low and low-medium income groups) is on average 45% of monthly household income. It lists the largest indirect costs as crime and a lack of safety.
The chart below shows the number of street robberies, that had aggravating circumstances and in which a weapon was drawn, per 100 000 people over the past four years. It compares the street robberies per 100 000 people for South Africa (a national average) to the three police precincts in Khayelitsha. The number of street robberies is calculated by subtracting the number of “Sub-categories of aggravated robberies” from the number of “Robbery with aggravating circumstances” included in the SAPS Annual Crime Statistics.
What the chart makes abundantly clear is that Khayelitsha experiences, year in and year out, more than double the number of street robberies than the national average. To make matters worse, according to the National Victim’s of Crime Survey for 2015/2016, the numbers above may only reflect 55% of street robberies perpetrated.
These statistics make it clear that residents of Khayelitsha are at real risk of being robbed at gunpoint, knifepoint or blunt-point, when walking to the shops, to school, to a neighbour, to catch public transport, to relieve themselves or when heading home. The map of Khayelitsha makes it clear that they are walking with limited visibility. Common sense makes it clear that they are walking in fear.
The City of Cape Town has promoted both the idea of violence prevention through urban upgrade and the programme Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrade (VPUU). It has articulated its views on the benefit of public lighting. It has articulated what it deems effective. By it’s own measure, it must concede that the VPUU has delivered hardly any effective public lighting in Khayelitsha. By it’s own measure, it must concede that as a City it is failing the people of Khayelitsha.