We must address our province’s violence epidemic, now.
Two weeks ago, I was alerted to the cruel and senseless murder of Jordan Moore (16) in Atlantis. Jordan and his two friends were approached at the park and threatened at gun point by gangsters with pit bulls. They were told to buy beer for them at a local shebeen.
While en route to the shebeen, the two friends managed to run away to seek help. Jordan was later found lifeless along Rietsanger Avenue. He had been stabbed, mauled by the gangsters’ dogs and reportedly had a chain around his neck.
The murder of young Jordan is truly horrifying. The story of his murder is but one example of the epidemic of violence that has gripped our province. No matter how many arrests are made, and no matter how many persons are put behind bars, we still face a situation in which over 3000 people are killed, each year, in our province. Our aim, through the Western Cape Safety Plan, is to halve the murder rate over the next ten years.
In order to do so, we need to address our province’s violence epidemic. This requires, firstly, understanding what causes such violent acts to be perpetrated and secondly, putting a range of solutions in place to address them.
We are taking a public health approach to violence prevention. This is defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as seeking to improve the health and safety of all individuals by addressing underlying risk factors that increase the likelihood that he or she will become a victim or a perpetrator of violence.
As per the WHO, this approach consists of four steps:
- To define the problem through the systematic collection of information about the magnitude, scope, characteristics and consequences of violence;
- To establish why violence occurs using research to determine the causes and correlates of violence, the factors that increase or decrease the risk for violence, and the factors that could be modified through interventions;
- To find out what works to prevent violence by designing, implementing and evaluating interventions; and
- To implement effective and promising interventions in a wide range of settings. The effects of these interventions on risk factors and the target outcome should be monitored, and their impact and cost-effectiveness should be evaluated. [www.who.int]
Our starting point has been to analyse the ‘types’ of violence we see so frequently reported in our province. While gangsterism is a significant contributor towards violence in our province, most murders and violent crimes stem from interpersonal violence. For this reason, we have focused the Western Cape Safety Plan on gender-based violence, child safety, school safety, and creating safe spaces.
For us, putting in place a range of protective factors against violence, is our best defense against this scourge in the long term.
We must work with young people to ensure that they can access opportunities and are steered them away from violence, apathy and possible gang involvement, and we must do so throughout the course of their life. This requires ensuring a healthy pregnancy, safe childbirth, healthy development, school readiness, school achievement, ensuring thriving adolescence, employment and healthy aging.
It also requires working together with all stakeholders including parents, schools, NGOs, faith-based organizations and local government, all of whom have an important role to play.
Our work on the ground has begun, with the monitoring of hotspot areas for key risk factors, including:
- Societal risks: social change, economic inequality, norms that support violence and the availability of firearms;
- Community-based risks: high crime levels, local illicit drug trade and inadequate victim support;
- Relational risks: poor parenting, early and forced marriage and friends engaging in violence; and
- Individual risks: sex, age, education and disability.
We are currently developing five Area Based Teams (ABTs) situated in Delft, Nyanga, Khayelitsha, Bishop Lavis, and Hanover Park.
The ABTs have been identified through an evidence-driven and data-led approach which allow us to address crime where and when it happens, but also to implement programmes which will lead to behaviour change over the long-term, preventing violence and making our communities safer. The additional law enforcement officers that have been funded through the Safety Plan will assist SAPS within these ABTs by acting as force-multipliers. To date, we have already trained and deployed 500 recruits to key hotspots, with more to follow early next year.
The ABT model will also be supported by our School Safety Ambassador programme which seeks to reduce violence and anti-social behaviours among school learners. Currently, the Department has approximately 90 ambassadors, deployed at schools across the province, who assist in patrolling school perimeters, supervising play areas, and acting as teaching aids and administrators, where needed.
Our safety ambassadors are having a tangible impact on the lives of young people in vulnerable communities. I am pleased that the Department will be appointing an additional 1000 safety ambassadors.
A further initiative that we, together with Chrysalis Academy, have recently piloted is the ‘Matric Camp’, which aims to give vulnerable students a safe space to prepare for their upcoming exams. In total, 60 grade 12 learners from schools in Hanover Park have been selected to attend Matric Camp to prepare for the 2020 National Senior Certificate (NSC) examinations over the period 5 November 2020 to 11 December 2020, while they are writing.
We have considered learners who are experiencing socio-economic hardship and household or interpersonal challenges. The learners will have a structured programme for the duration of their stay which includes study sessions, additional lessons and tutoring, career guidance and will also receive the required psycho-social support, where there is a need. The facilitators will include principals and educators, volunteer tutors, and youth development coaches. Pending the success of this pilot project and funding availability, we hope to replicate it in future on a broader scale.
In addition, we will continue to drive the following programmes, which support the life course and public health approach to violence prevention:
- Chrysalis Academy
- Youth and Safety Religious Partnership Programme
- Ministerial Safety Ambassadors
- Department of Community Safety hotspots
- Chrysalis Youth Hub Ambassadors
- Neighbourhood Watch Programme
- Community Police Forums
- Western Cape Police Ombudsman
- Western Cape Liquor Authority
Lastly but of equal importance, we are also focused on formally recognising children’s rights, creating public disapproval of violence, improving parenting education and enhancing social skills, respectively.
We must rid our society of violence if we are to improve our economy, restore dignity to citizens and improve our safety all-round. We must get this right and we must start now. Jordan’s gruesome murder exemplifies the epidemic of violence that we are facing as a province and the need for all of us to address it, together, with urgency.
While my Department drives these initiatives, I call on you, as a member of a community, family or workplace to stand against violence. That means reporting violent behaviour and crime to the police, helping when you see signs of violence in your family or community such as child and woman abuse, teaching young people conflict management skills, assisting or seeking assistance with domestic violence, and getting help if needed on conflict and anger management.
Western Cape residents have come together before when we have faced challenges, and we must come together now to face our violence epidemic. Together, we can end violence.