Cape Town -
Violence and injury caused such a burden on the province’s health-care system that the Western Cape government is planning to tackle it head-on – partly by closing down 25 000 illegal shebeens across the province.
Premier Helen Zille said they were taking a “whole of society” approach to increase safety and address the root causes of violence.
She launched the Integrated Provincial Violence Prevention Policy Framework on Monday.
“Every year, the provincial government spends up to 80 percent of its health budget on preventable conditions, including injury-related deaths on our roads, and injuries and deaths from interpersonal violence fuelled by alcohol and drug use.”
Zille said this drained resources that could otherwise be spent on health care for people whose illnesses were not preventable.
The policy framework, approved by the provincial cabinet last month, brings together national, provincial and local spheres of government, the private sector and civil society.
The policy is based on three pillars:
* Reducing the availability and harmful use of alcohol.
* Creating a context for safe, stable and nurturing relationships between children and their parents and caregivers.
* Teaching life skills to at-risk children and adolescents.
Zille said the closure of about 25 000 illegal shebeens was critical to the success of the intervention.
She said only effective partnerships and combined efforts between the three spheres of government and civil society could address the underlying factors that gave rise to violence.
“Only the police have the power to close down illegal shebeens. Our government has asked the police to develop a comprehensive strategy to shut down illegal shebeens, particularly in crime hot spot areas.”
Using Nyanga, the murder capital of the country, as an example, Zille said the violence was interpersonal and driven by alcohol abuse.
She said the plan would not bear fruit immediately. “I believe that over five years… you will see the impact. If this does not drive down crime in Nyanga, I’m not quite sure what will.”
Community Safety MEC Dan Plato said his department had intensified initiatives to reduce violence in Nyanga, which has been identified as a critical area for the application of a “whole of society” approach. Among these initiatives were the Safety Lab, a think tank in the Cape Town Partnership, which has been piloting projects to provide entertainment and lifestyle alternatives for young people at risk of becoming involved in crime.
Safety Lab director Noah Maltz said other initiatives include partnering with Ster-Kinekor to screen movies over weekends at the Zolani Centre; yoga; boxing training; dance classes; skateboarding, and open mic sessions.
Health MEC Theuns Botha said his department was bearing the brunt of the high levels of violence and injury.
“More than half of the deaths in the Western Cape are unnatural and that is a very alarming fact. We get very high levels of interpersonal violence and sexual assaults.”
Michael Krause, the team leader of the Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading programme, a project run by the City of Cape Town, said the focus was on improving people’s quality of life.
“By building safer environments through innovative and sustainable urban design, spaces can be created that remove opportunities and motivation for crime.”