Western Cape Government Launches Violence Prevention Policy
Statement by the Premier of the Western Cape, Helen Zille
On Monday, 16 September, we have launched the Western Cape Government’s Integrated Provincial Violence Prevention Policy Framework, which was approved by the provincial Cabinet last month. The policy brings together a range of proposals focused on reducing and preventing violence in the Western Cape, which are all in line with our government’s “whole-of-society” approach to increasing safety in communities.
All of these proposals involve different role players: the national, provincial and local spheres of government, the private sector, civil society, families and individuals.
We recognise that the criminal justice system has a critical role to play when it comes to bringing down violence in our communities. It is crucial that people who commit crimes are brought to justice and put behind bars. Only the South African Police Service (SAPS), the public prosecutor, the courts and correctional services, working together in a seamless pipeline, have the power to ensure this happens. These are sole functions of the national government.
However, we also recognise that creating safe communities is not the sole responsibility of the criminal justice system. All of us have a role to play in this regard.
This is what underpins our violence prevention policy. Effective partnerships and combined efforts between all three spheres of government, civil society and communities are the only way we will address the underlying factors that give rise to acts of violence in our society.
Background to the Policy
The Violence Prevention Policy has been developed in response to a long-standing need for a coherent and integrated framework for understanding and effectively tackling the very high injury and mortality rates resulting from interpersonal and other forms of violence in the Western Cape, the full policy document can be found at this link.
This crisis is illustrated by the following facts:
- More than half of deaths in the Western Cape are due to unnatural causes (60% in 2010) and a very large proportion of these were homicide and road deaths (67% in 2010)
- Interpersonal violence is the second leading cause of premature deaths in the province after HIV/Aids
- Among non-fatal injuries, interpersonal violence accounts for more than half of all injured persons who come to state healthcare facilities
- Most concerning of all is that there appears to be an upward trend in sexual assaults on children under 13 years as reported to health facilities.
The effect of this violence is enormous. It creates trauma for families (and particularly children) and weakens communities where the social fabric is often already severely strained.
It also has a major impact on our health services. Each year, the Western Cape Government spends up to 80% of its health budget on preventable conditions and traumas, injuries and deaths from interpersonal violence and road accidents. This places a massive burden on the public healthcare system and drains limited resources which could otherwise be spent on providing care and health services to patients suffering from illnesses or with conditions that are not preventable. This makes it essential to tackle this problem effectively if we are to maintain a quality healthcare service that is able to cater for the primary health needs of our people.
Our healthcare system cannot sustain its quality in the context of prevalent levels of interpersonal violence and preventable injury.
Much of this violence can be prevented because it is behavioural and behaviour can be changed. For example, research shows that alcohol abuse is a key driver of violent behaviour in our communities.
Our violence prevention policy therefore takes a public health approach to reducing and preventing violence. It outlines a comprehensive integrated approach that balances short-term interventions aimed at tackling alcohol abuse, longer term interventions aimed at encouraging responsible behaviour by citizens, and addressing the social norms that support violence.
The policy emphasises three pillars for a violence prevention strategy:
- Reducing the availability and harmful use of alcohol
- Creating a context for safe, stable and nurturing relationships between children and their parents and caregivers
- Life skills development for at-risk children and adolescents
In other words, the policy recognises that individuals have a duty to prevent violence through the life choices they make, parents through the responsibility they take and the guidance they give, whole communities through the cultural and social norms they establish, and religious institutions and schools in the leadership they provide.
Some of the proposals contained in our policy are already being implemented, while others will be rolled out soon through pilot projects.
Implementation to Date: A Focus on Alcohol Abuse
One of the main interventions introduced by the Western Cape Government so far is focused on reducing alcohol abuse and its related harms by limiting its availability in communities.
As we have already mentioned, alcohol abuse is a key driver of violence in communities. The role of alcohol abuse is two-fold. First, alcohol lowers inhibition and fuels aggressive behaviour and violence. Second, due to alcohol’s effect of lowering reflexes, motor skills and cognitive perception, intoxicated people are more likely to become victims of violence and road accidents (In 1999, 62% of murdered women in the Western Cape had elevated blood alcohol concentrations at the time of death). The focus on alcohol reduction is therefore also closely linked to road safety, since injuries and deaths on our roads are primarily caused by alcohol abuse.
This is why our government passed the Western Cape Liquor Act in 2009, which has been implemented from April 2012. The Act regulates liquor outlets and among other things, aims to limit access to alcohol in residential areas.
However, critical to the success of this intervention is the closing down of illegal shebeens in communities. It is estimated that there are about 25 000 illegal shebeens in the Western Cape.
Only the SAPS has the power to close down illegal shebeens. Our government has requested that the police in the province develop a comprehensive strategy to shut down illegal shebeens in our communities, particularly in crime hotspot areas.
Both the provincial government and the City of Cape Town have partnered with organisations to introduce a range of other whole-of-society interventions in crime hotspot areas. One of these areas is Nyanga.
Nyanga: Case Study for Violence Prevention Initiatives
Nyanga is unfortunately well-known as the violent crime hotspot of South Africa, with the highest rates of homicide (132 per 100 000 people) which is double the citywide Cape Town average of 66 per 100 000 people. This violence is overwhelmingly interpersonal and driven by alcohol abuse. It is therefore a prime candidate for area-based interventions and projects that aim to reduce violence through the approach of this policy.
A range of programmes and initiatives are implemented in Nyanga by the Department of Community Safety, the City of Cape Town and our partners, as multi-stakeholder interventions, all of which aim to address the high levels of violence in the area.
Department of Community Safety Interventions in Nyanga
The Department of Community Safety has initiated a number of programmes aimed at increasing safety. As a community with high rates of violent crimes and murder recorded year after year, Nyanga is a critical area for the application of our whole-of-society approach and the department has intensified these initiatives to reduce violence in the area. For example:
- The Department is working with the Safety Lab, a think-tank in the Cape Town Partnership focusing on innovative safety interventions, which has been piloting a project to provide entertainment and lifestyle alternatives for Nyanga youth-at-risk of becoming victims of crime, or becoming involved in crime themselves.
The Safety Lab is working with a range of local partners to provide strategic support for existing initiatives and facilitating new activities. Collaborators include City Sports and Recreation as well as the Sports Council; SAPS Nyanga and the local CPF; Metro Police through involvement of the Neighborhood Safety Office; the taxi association, neighbourhood watches and agencies such as Gijima Arts. The resulting activities include:
- Developing and launch the Nyanga Calendar in print and social media (currently over 6 000 users on Mxit)
- Partnering with Ster Kinekor to screen weekend movies at Zolani Centre, with over two months of successful screenings (up to 300 8-12 year olds attend afternoon events)
- Another half dozen "activations" underway including yoga, boxing training, dance class, skateboarding and open mic sessions.
- For instance, the open mic session this past Friday evening attracted almost 200 youths in the late teens/early twenties age category (to an alcohol-free entertainment event).
- Boxing training is being reinvigorated in partnership with the local Sports Council, led by a passionate youth leader in the Nyanga community.
- A cohort of Chryalis Academy graduates (themselves coming from "at-risk" situations) trained to support on-the-ground activities
- Partnering with City of Cape Town in converting problematic open spaces into play zones.
Through this approach, the Nyanga Calendar and supported activities are intended to provide alternatives to antisocial behaviour, hence reducing opportunities for crime.
- The Expanded Partnership Programme is focused on building Community Police Forums (CPFs)as a capable partner to policing within all communities. Communities Police Forums have a legal mandate to visit police stations, to promote transparency and, with the police and the community, to identify and resolve problems that may exist at station level. The Western Cape has already successfully implemented the programme at 52% of all police stations within the Western Cape. Through this programme, Community Police Forums are guided in the performance of their statutory function through a system of minimum standards of service delivery, effective reporting and follow-ups. They are financially supported in accordance with their performance using a funding model that ensures that the highest standards of financial accountability while allowing for significant investment for the effective CPF functioning at station level. The Community Police Forum at Nyanga was part of the initial pilot study and is now fully participating in this programme. Results achieved increasingly demonstrate the successful contributing role of civilian structures, such as CPFs, in building capacity at local level policing.
- The Youth Work Programme builds on the already successful Chrysalis Youth Academy which provides life skills training for “youth at risk” and equipping them with behavioural competencies that contribute towards responsible citizenship. The programme allows for all youth who have successfully completed the Chrysalis programme to be taken up in a work opportunity with the many partners working in the field of increasing safety. More than 430 young people have already been placed with various partners such as the City Improvement Districts (CIDs), municipalities, and the Safety Lab.
- In 2012, the Department initiated the Youth and Religion Programme which forms a partnership with the religious fraternity, who have a long history of working to make their communities safer. The religious fraternity is strong and established in all communities and the Department of Community Safety has entered into formal agreements with many of them in the 10 areas most at risk of crime, including Nyanga. Through funding this partnership, these organisations are able to intensify their youth programmes during the festive season. To date, more than 13 000 children have already benefited from the programme.
City of Cape Town Interventions in Nyanga
VPUU programme Intervention in Nyanga
In 2012, a joint committee between the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape Government agreed that the Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading (VPUU) programme will be the vehicle to implement an area-based whole-of-society programme in Nyanga that focuses on improving the quality of life of the community with a special focus on crime and violence prevention.
The VPUU Project, run via the City of Cape Town, uses social engagement with communities and town planning as tools to increase safety. By building safer environments through innovative and sustainable urban design, spaces can be created that remove opportunities and motivations for crime. The Department of Community Safety’s Youth Work Programme has also placed Chrysalis Academy students with the VPUU.
Department of Health interventions
While the Western Cape Government is committed to creating safe communities in the province, and has introduced a range of socio-economic interventions to reduce violent behaviour, we know we cannot achieve this alone.
The successful implementation of this policy will require the co-operation of all role-players in the health and criminal justice sectors, as well as the active participation and partnership of citizens and civil society more broadly to prevent and reduce violence through the alignment of strategy and action.
The role of the private sector is also crucial: as the engine of job creation, it helps to reduce the social exclusion that unemployment creates and related social ills.
Similarly, the role of active, responsible citizens, families and communities partnering with the state in a whole-of-society drive to prevent violence is critical. We can contribute to increased safety in our province when we all take responsibility to play our part.