Dr. Andrew Faull et al.

Dear Premier Zille,

We write to you regarding the Province’s planned sale of the Tafelberg school site in Sea Point, to private developers.

Governing Safer Cities

The United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognises that reducing crime, violence, discrimination, and ensuring the rule of law, inclusion and good governance, are essential for securing sustainable development in all the world’s cities. [i] It notes that in response to crime and insecurity, city managers must work to reduce inequality and promote inclusion, individual and community resilience. Building on this, the UN’s forthcoming handbook, Governing Safer Cities, lists socio-economic development and inclusion, including through spatial planning, housing and the provision of services as requirements for the fostering of urban safety. [ii] It states that The importance of inclusive development…is critical to long-term and sustainable crime prevention.’ Under the heading ‘The centrality of inclusion’ it notes that ‘securing cities in a globalising world will require every effort…to ensure inclusion, particularly of the most marginalised and excluded. It is these people, generally seen to be disconnected from the benefits of the global economy, who are most likely to be linked to its dystopian side. No amount of enforcement will succeed in achieving their inclusion into the mainstream of city life, and law-enforcement interventions may in fact serve to further exclude them.’

These same themes also run throughout the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)’s Handbook on Crime Prevention Guidelines. Under the heading ‘Socio-economic development and inclusion’ the handbook states that ‘Crime prevention considerations should be integrated into all relevant social and economic policies and programmes…[including]…housing and urban planning, poverty, social marginalization and exclusion.’ [iii]

Mixed cities are sustainable cities

Another major UN agency, UN Habitat, which promotes ‘socially and environmentally sustainable human settlements’ notes that the ‘planning (and also the un-planning)’ of cities is key to peoples’ safety. With this in mind, the agency recommends that ‘at least 40 per cent of floor space should be allocated for economic use in any neighbourhood’ and that neighbourhoods should be economically mixed. It recommends that 20 to 50 per cent of residential zoning in any neighbourhood should be allocated to low cost housing. [iv]

Crime, space and place in Cape Town

South Africa has one of the highest recorded crime rates in the world. By one estimate, the country is home to four of the world’s fifty most violent cities, with Cape Town ranked 9th. [v] The country’s murder rate has halved since the mid-nineties but remains alarmingly high at 33 per 100,000 in 2014/2015.vi Crime and violence are the product of a range of factors which, in South Africa, are compounded by the socio-spatial segregation of our cities.

Cross-national research suggests that some of the strongest determinants of violent crime rates are inequality and the concentration of poverty – more so than the absolute level of poverty. [vii] Especially when inequality is highly visible and when segregation is stark, [viii] there is a loss of trust and an increase in a sense of frustration and alienation, [ix] which make it more difficult for already-strained communities to positively regulate the behaviour of the youth. [x] Thus spatial marginalisation, which is linked to social and economic marginalisation, contributes to violence and fear.

Cape Town is an amazing city, but it is also very violent. Between April 2011 and March 2012, police in the city recorded more murders than in Johannesburg and Pretoria combined. [xi] The vast majority of this violence is cocooned within urban enclaves of relative poverty, seclusion and isolation on the city’s Cape Flats, where the working poor predominantly reside. Despite the Province and City’s many excellent initiatives to promote city safety, both through development and law-enforcement, many Cape Flats neighbourhoods remain hotbeds of crime and risk. Unfortunately no amount of democratic law-enforcement is likely to bring this under control in the absence of changes to the urban and economic landscapes. In this light, development of the Tafelberg site offers you, the Province and the City, a prime opportunity to demonstrate your vision of an inclusive, just Cape Town, and to take a giant leap forward towards its realisation.

The Tafelberg site: progress and symbolism

Apartheid planning left communities divided by race and its apartheid correlate, income, so that poor residents, in general, live farthest from nodes of economy and employment. This geography condemns the working poor to spend more time and money travelling to work (or in search of work) than it does many wealthier and middle class city residents. This, you no doubt agree, is a form of structural violence. However, two by-products of this structural violence, and potentially lethal threats to the working poor, are the violent crime and the risk-saturated roads that it generates. As a result, tens of thousands of Capetonians must daily put themselves at risk, walking in the early and late hours of the day, and travelling on recklessly driven taxis in a country with among the highest road-death toll in the world. This is an injustice which you, the Province and City have inherited, rather than created. It is, however, one you can begin to undo. While the development of mixed or low-income housing on the Tafelberg school site would do little to disrupt decades of urban segregation, it would be an important first step and powerful symbolic gesture that would reflect positively on the Province, City and its management. To many onlookers around the country and the world it would be considered an important example of progressive urban governance. As such, we would urge you to re-consider the sale of this land to private developers.

We thank you for taking the time to consider our submission and wish you well in bringing this important vision to fruition.


Prof Mark Shaw

Dr Andrew Faull

Mr Matthew Skade

Ms Anine Kriegler

PDF here.

[i] United Nations, Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, available at: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/post2015/transformingourworld (accessed 7 June 2016)

[ii] This guide is still in draft form. However, staff at the Centre of Criminology, UCT, have been central to its development. The most recent meeting of contributors to the guide took place at UCT in March 2016.

[iii] United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2010. Handbook on Crime Prevention Guidelines, available at: https://www.google.co.za/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjWgdvk95XNAhVpK8AKHTzxDasQFggaMAA&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.unodc.org%2Fpdf%2Fcriminal_justice%2FHandbook_on_Crime_Prevention_Guidelines_-_Making_them_work.pdf&usg=AFQjCNFRdSnfSc0sVMmoEMXpIhhr4WqdEA&sig2=Vls1L8peC4jgyK9KXbd7Fw&bvm=bv.123664746,d.d24 (accessed 7 June 2016)

[iv] United Nations Habitat, A new strategy of sustainable neighbourhood planning: Five Principles, available at: http://unhabitat.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/5-Principles_web.pdf (accessed 7 June 2016)

[v] WorldAtlas 2016 Most dangerous cities in the world. Available at www.worldatlas.com/articles/mostdangerouscities-in-the-world.html, accessed 5 April 2016

[vi] South African Police Service, Annual Report 2014/15.

[vii] Amy E Nivette, ‘Cross-National Predictors of Crime: A Meta-Analysis’, Homicide Studies, 15 (2011), 103–31.

[viii] D. L. Hicks and J. H. Hicks, ‘Jealous of the Joneses: Conspicuous Consumption, Inequality, and Crime’, Oxford Economic Papers, 66 (2014), 1090–1120.

[ix] Richard Wilkinson, ‘Why Is Violence More Common Where Inequality Is Greater?’, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1036 (2004), 1–12 (pp. 2–3).

[x] Morgan Kelly, ‘Inequality and Crime’, Review of Economics and Statistics, 82 (2000), 530–39 (p. 530).

[xi] Lancaster, L. 2013 Where murder happened in South Africa in 2012/13, AfricaCheck, available at: https://africacheck.org/2013/09/19/where-murder-happens-in-sa/ (accessed 8 June 2016)


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