Cape Town’s sprawling township of Khayelitsha was once dubbed the ‘rape capital of the Western Cape’, but is now one of the safest townships in the province, thanks to an ambitious five-year project by the City of Cape Town and the German government.
The R120 million project, known as VPUU (Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading), which has also been nominated for the prestigious national Impumelelo Innovations 2010 Sustainability awards, has managed to contribute to reducing crime affecting the approximately 1.5 million residents by over two thirds since 2004, by improving the living and social conditions through urban improvements and innovative interventions.
Police statistics show that all crimes reported in 2003-2004 amounted to 16 648 incidents. The VPUU interventions on the ground started in 2006, and the latest statistics, from 2008-2009, show a total of 5 046 incidents, including a reduction in reporting of all violent crime.
And a drive along the township’s roads certainly reveals a wealth of recent developments in the area. These range from a sports complex, well lit paved pathways, 24 hour safe houses with community rooms, and the revamping of a business area, all of which, according to residents and project partners, have contributed to an improvement in their quality of life.
Other initiatives include business and life skills training for residents.
The inception of the VPUU began in 2001, but hit the ground in 2006 through funding provided by the City of Cape Town, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Development and Co-operation and Development, and the German Development Bank (KfW).
“At that time (2001), crime levels were unacceptable,” said Khayelitsha Development Forum chairman, Zamayedwa Sogayise.
“There are no less than 67 000 households in the informal (shacks) sector, police vans cannot penetrate those shacks…the best way to combat crime would be to develop the infrastructure of the township,” he said.
As a result, five “safety node areas,” namely Monwabisi Park, Site B, Kuyasa, Site C, and Harare were identified, and crime hotspots were cleared and revamped.
“There used to be a lot of crime here, now I feel free to walk,” said resident Zoleka Mraji, who was referring to ‘precinct 3’, which used to be a dumping ground littered with rubbish and sewage and was once one of the crime hotspots.
The area, which is a popular pedestrian route to the train station, is now home to a children’s park, two sports fields and a 24 hour ‘active box’ (see sidebar).
The project has also developed local businesses. One of many businessmen who have benefitted is Lundi Takayi, chairperson of the informal Ntlazane Traders Association.
Takayi and a number of informal traders have been trained in bookkeeping, trade, and finances.
“My business has improved…We are also receiving ongoing support in running our businesses,” said Takayi.
Traders previously ran their businesses from shacks outside Khayelitsha station but the area has been revamped and trading stalls improved.
Improving businesses also meant there was more money circulating in the township which was created as a labour dormitory by the apartheid government said Sogayise.
Violence against women has also been addressed, with a gender-based violence office opened in partnership with the VPUU last year.
Primrose Tetyana, a Mosaic social auxiliary worker at the office, said the VPUU’s support “made it easier for Mosaic to reach out to the communities”.
“We now have an office, and a meeting hall, and because more women are aware of our services, more women are being trained (on dealing with abuse and assertiveness),” she said.
Although SAPS statistics showed sexual crimes had reduced since a highpoint in 2003, the levels of violence against women, including rape and domestic violence, remained unacceptably high.
“Many men are unemployed, angry and have nothing to do,” said Tetyana.
For Sogayise, the high unemployment rate (more than 50 percent), is the major factor contributing to crime in the township.
“If you go to Khayelitsha in the day, the streets are full,” he said. But he said Khayelitsha was “no longer the crime hotspot it was before”.
And the City and the German government intend to soon replicate the VPUU project in the township of Manenberg, where drug related crime is high and gangsterism rife. Similar projects for other Cape Town townships, as well as Port Elizabeth, are also in the pipeline. – West Cape News
Sidebar: How the VPUU works to combat crime:
The creation of the Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading (VPUU) project has relied on a number of interlinked initiatives to reduce crime in the township of Khayelitsha. These include:
* The creation of four ‘active boxes’ in previous crime hotspots, along with paving and extra lighting. An active box is a 24 hour centre which serves as a lookout point for criminal activity. Each active box is manned by “facility guardians” who are in contact with the police. The boxes contain a caretakers’ flat, a community room and a spaza shop.
* 200 to 300 volunteers who have been assigned as neighbourhood watch patrols in areas where crime is committed most, particularly on weekends when many residents frequent the shebeens.
* A sports complex, a children’s park and two sports fields.
* A new library which will house an early childhood development area, a study room, local NGO and civic organisation offices, and a community hall, are soon to be completed.
* A youth centre is also on the cards.
* Upgrading of an informal trading areas by constructing buildings from which traders can do business.
* Providing support for 200 small businesses through the provision of training courses.
* Up to eight ‘live-work units’ – structures where traders both live and work – are due to be completed.
* Almost 1500 residents have received training courses as part of the project’s initiative. These range from computer courses, safety and security, conflict management, to one on how to obtain a drivers license.
* The funding of more than 80 community projects.
* Financial support for thirteen crèches.
* The opening of a gender based violence satellite office in partnership with Mosaic, an organisation providing counselling and support services to victims of rape and domestic violence.
* Partnership with University of the Western Cape’s Legal Aid Centre which has an office in the township.
For this and other stories on the VPUU program in Khayelitsha visit