Safety and security is not only a fundamental responsibility of the state, but also a fundamental human right and a necessary condition for human development, improved quality of life and enhanced productivity. Everything, that happens, happens in a municipality. This is the result of the wall-to-wall demarcation in South Africa.

Urban safety, particularly safety in public spaces are essential ingredients for creating liveable and prosperous cities. Unfortunately safety is not always a focus for cities and local government. This is often because the responsibility for delivering a safer environment has vested with the national authorities, despite safety being one of the highest demands by citizens.

There is general consensus in the existing body of knowledge that urban safety should be defined more holistically. It should include not only the traditional safety functions of municipalities, such as 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 must help to transform.

The Constitution indicates that municipalities have executive authority in terms of matters listed in Schedules 4 and 5B. These thirty-eight (38) matters vary from municipal public transport, including municipal airports, electricity and gas reticulation to matters such as providing facilities for the accommodation, care and burial of animals and noise pollution. By-laws, such as those regulating liquor sales, public parks, streets and public spaces etc. have a significant impact on urban safety. Inherent to all of these functions, are the safety and security of communities.

Safety and security is not a local government matter listed in section 4B or 5B.  The associated functions of safety and security however, are crosscutting in municipalities. As a crosscutting issue, safety has implications for all of the local government functions, from planning to infrastructure management to the softer issues such as municipal health functions and early childhood development. There is consensus on the potential of municipalities to play a key role in safety and security, direct quantification of the costs are rare and methods of appreciation of the cost of violence and the benefits of safety are inadequate. 

Research is needed alongside the implementation of pilot schemes to demonstrate the benefits of programs focusing on an urban approach to safety. Safety and security is a national priority, central resources and targeted finance of violence prevention initiatives at the local level are missing in South Africa. Prosperous and liveable cities are urban spaces where citizens feel safe from violence and crime, and can take full advantage of the economic, social and cultural opportunities offered by cities.

Safety – living free from the threat or fear of violence and crime – is a basic human right and a public good. It is also a necessary condition for realising the intended outcomes of the Integrated Urban Development Framework (IUDF), such as spatial transformation, integrated and sustainable human settlements, economic development and job creation, and active citizenship.

South Africa’s crime statistics consistently show that crime, especially violent crime, is disproportionately concentrated in metros and larger cities and towns. The causes can be attributed to many interrelated risk factors that converge in cities, including high levels of inequality, social exclusion, (youth) unemployment, poverty, and substance and alcohol abuse. Other factors are fragmented family structures, insufficient gun control, inadequately planned/ managed urbanisation, poor access to decent housing and services, and the socio-spatial segregation caused by apartheid and subsequent housing policies in the democratic era.

High rates of violent crime are having a devastating impact on the quality of life of many communities, especially the poorest and most marginalised. While the safety of all communities (both urban and rural) matters equally, an urgent, dedicated focus on urban safety is required. A lack of safety in urban areas directly affects the socio- economic development prospects, not only of cities and their inhabitants, but also of the entire country and its population.

The pervasive fear of violence and crime is one of the greatest barriers to urban residents, especially women and girls, being able to take full advantage of the economic, social and cultural opportunities offered by cities. Safety concerns in public spaces and when using public transport have an extremely detrimental impact on the access to economic opportunities and basic services, social cohesion and quality of life safety.

Living free from the threat or fear of violence and crime – is a basic human right in line with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11, the vision of the Integrated Urban Development Framework is “‘Liveable, safe, integrated, economically inclusive and globally competitive, where residents actively participate in urban life’. The IUDF seeks to foster a shared understanding across government and society about how best to manage urbanisation and achieve the goals of economic development, job creation and improved living conditions by addressing current urban inefficiencies as outlined in the National Developmental Plan.

The Integrated Urban Development Framework’s overall outcome – spatial transformation: reversing the inefficient spatial patterns in a way that promotes both social and economic development while protecting the environment. It recognises urban safety as a crosscutting policy lever that has a direct impact on the socio-economic development potential of urban areas. It makes a number of key recommendations to promote urban safety, which are in line with the policy proposals of the 2016 White Paper on Safety and Security, such as:

  • The development of integrated local safety plans
  • The improvement of the urban build environment
  • A focus on prevention initiatives 
  • The incorporation of social components into prevention initiatives 
  • The incorporation of community/ public participation in prevention initiatives

Critical points identified in the White paper on Safety and Security (WPSS) that link with the Integrated Urban Development Framework are:

  1. Safety through environmental design; and
  2. Active public and community participation.

The White Paper on Safety and Security (WPSS) highlights the need for integration, collaboration and cooperation at all levels, as a critical part of the process of building safer communities. The successful implementation of the policy will require different spheres of government to work together and contribute to the implementation thereof from within their respective mandates. This has implications for integrated development planning and how we as government, go about this important exercise.

The Municipal Systems Act, act 32 of 2000 clearly indicates that municipalities must participate in national and provincial development programmes. If municipalities are required to comply with planning requirements in terms of national or provincial legislation, the responsible organs of state must align with the provisions of the Municipal Systems Act, consult with municipalities and take reasonable steps to assist the municipality to meet the time limits with regard to the adoption of their integrated development plans.

An integrated development plan may be amended after its annual review, but remains in force until an integrated development plan is adopted by the next council. It was already mentioned for example that safety and security is crosscutting and inherent to all the local government matters and not a separate function of municipalities. In the light of this, a municipal safety and security strategy (and consequent plan), is not included currently included as a core component of integrated development plans. 

The Premiers, together with the MECs responsible for local government, are key role-players in intergovernmental planning in provinces. When provincial departments conduct reviews or draft their strategic plans and annual performance plans, the Offices of the Premier and provincial departments responsible for local government should work together, to ensure that the plans of the different spheres are informed by and aligned to municipal long-term plans, SDFs and IDPs. They should also identify regional spatial development priorities that require joint planning initiatives and collaboration with other sectors.

Premiers and MECs should direct and focus the necessary resources to create coherent centres of planning at provincial level that will support the convergence of investment and development in municipalities. Crime prevention through environmental design can be defined as the implementation of measures to reduce the causes of, and the opportunities for, criminal events, and to address the fear of crime through the application of sound design and management principles to built environments. Globally, studies have shown that urban upgrading can contribute to reductions in violence and crimes..”

Community participation is a core tenet of our developmental local government system.  Municipalities are required to encourage, and create conditions for the local community to participate in the affairs of the municipality. Despite the legislative framework that places citizen participation at the centre of local governance processes, the question of political will to facilitate this participation remains. This might be because community participation is very complex.

We should not confuse community participation with consultation. Meaningful participation means that people are actively involved in making decisions about the planning and implementation of the processes, programmes and projects that affect them. It is not sufficient to organise a meeting where a project or programme is presented to the interested and affected people and parties for discussion or their approval. Active citizen involvement should be meaningful and extend to active participation in crime and violence prevention through participation in needs assessments and safety audits, development of strategies and implementation of plans, and monitoring and evaluation of impact.

By Andries Nel, Deputy Minister for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Leadership

Posted in Viewpoints.

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