This is what a typical night looks like in the Taiwan informal settlement in Khayelitsha, where residents say inadequate lighting is making them vulnerable to criminals. Picture: Jason Boud/ANA Pictures
Cape Town - Inadequate street lighting in Khayelitsha makes residents vulnerable to crime and contradicts city guidelines on public light provision, human rights group Social Justice Coalition (SJC) says.

Public lighting there is so bad that formal and informal areas are mainly lit by high mast apartheid-era lights which cast deep shadows and make it dangerous for residents to move around, especially in informal settlements where residents fall victim to criminals who prey on them.

“Two of the three police precincts in Khayelitsha are consistently subjected to a high rate of extreme violent crime. Year in and year out these police stations are included in the list of South Africa’s 10 most murderous precincts,” Dalli Weyers, a senior researcher in the SJC’s safety and justice department, said.

“We don’t believe effective streetlights will address these high levels of violent crime on their own, but we do believe they are required alongside other crime prevention measures,” Weyers said adding that: “We see effective public lighting as a necessary requirement in creating safer neighbourhoods”.

In the City of Cape Town’s Design and Management Guidelines for a Safer City, good lighting is a requirement for safety as a deterrent to crime. The same document also states that high mast lighting should be avoided because it casts deep shadows.

However, a look at aerial maps of Khayelitsha reveals that most of the lighting in the township’s formal and informal areas is from high-mast posts.

According to this street light distribution map of the City of Cape Town’s electricity services department, high mast lighting, indicated in red dots is the main lighting source in formal and informal parts of Khayelitsha. The orange dots indicate standard street lights.

According to member of the mayoral committee for Informal settlements, Water and Sanitation, and Energy, Xanthea Limberg: “The City, in consultation with the community, and taking into account the communities’ preferences installs either high-mast or conventional street-lighting,”she said.

“Where new lighting infrastructure is to be installed and either type is physically possible, the City engages with the affected community to determine their view. Where there are physical constraints to the use of one of the types, a choice is not always possible,” Limberg said.

Asked why large areas of Khayelitsha did not have street lights but ineffective high mast lights Limberg said: “Both high-mast and conventional street-lighting have advantages and disadvantages. The most significant advantage of high-mast lighting is its large lighting footprint and the most significant disadvantage is shadowing effects.

“Conventional street-lighting on the other hand has a far smaller, focused lighting footprint.”

She did not respond to a question about what the City was doing or planning to do to improve lighting in Khayelitsha.

“The City is confident that most of Khayelitsha is covered by either street or high-mast lighting. As advised, the City is working together with the community and SAPS to identify any areas which are not lit and to then see whether it is possible to erect street or high mast lighting in this area” Limberg said.

Weekend Argus