Spring School in Khayelitsha

It’s time to share and speak with people, and to understand…A lot of people, when they come to Cape Town they think that when you reach Waterfront, you are in South Africa. It is not a fact. You’ve come here now, and you’ve seen – Oh! There’s another side of town.” – Mncedisi Mbatha, VPUU Community Nodal Coordinator

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From the 5th – 9th of February 2018, VPUU hosted a group of students from ETH (Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule) and UCT (University of Cape Town). UCT needs no introduction, and ETH is a leading university in science, technology, engineering and mathematics based in the city of Zürich, Switzerland. This postgraduate programme comprises an interdisciplinary group of Masters and PhD students and is led by two senior researchers (political scientist, Dr. Jonas Hagmann and social anthropologist, Dr. Jennifer Duyne). They came to South Africa to engage research institutions and implementing agencies working in the Cape Town urban space – along with their colleagues from UCT.

The objective of the Khayelitsha site visits was for the visiting students to gain a better understanding of how different stakeholders perceive, are affected by, cope with, and respond to challenges of insecurity in townships. Students focused on one of three chosen themes, with each theme drawing on the knowledge and experience of different stakeholders within the communities of Harare and Monwabisi Park:

  • Theme 1: Coping with insecurity – communities’ perspectives
  • Theme 2: Prevention and mitigation of insecurity: institutional perspectives, regulatory strategies, programmes and projects
  • Theme 3: Technological, urban design and architectural solutions

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Spanning over 3 days, the students participated in a series of semi-structured individual and focus group interviews with a wide range of stakeholders, either living in Khayelitsha or involved in security interventions for residents. These stakeholders included community NHW (neighbourhood watch), SNAC (safe node area committee) members, SAPS (South African Police Services) officials, DRMC (disaster risk management centre) officials, local business tenants of Harare Square, beneficiaries of the SDF (social development fund) and various VPUU staff.


On their final day, Alastair Graham (CoCT) spoke of the complex dynamics at play with regards to Cape Town’s most violent neighbourhoods, and the strategies that the City of Cape Town employs to mitigate this violence. Emphasis was put on an integrated strategy of social crime prevention and suppression. Ultimately and most sustainably, perpetrators of violence need to be given an alternative set of (pro-social) choices. Finally, each group presented on their respective themes; reflections on the week’s engagements, and tough questions interrogating the complexity and delicacy of violence prevention at a neighbourhood level. Some snippets of the groups’ reflections:

My most valuable take-away from the various engagements was the very different points of view – something that might have been clear before coming is full of questions!”

“The integrated public-private approach increases efficiency by introducing bottom-up approaches in dealing with violence in the townships.”

“Most insightful was the honesty with which the stakeholders spoke of both the success and failure of programmes; self-reflection and learning is vital.” 

“The discussion around CitySpec/CRO was excellent. It touched on many questions I have around data collection in informal settlements.”

“A community is not a homogenous entity, and binaries are dangerous (safe vs. unsafe).”

VPUU would like to thank the group for the energy and enquiring minds they brought to the discussions. For those of you traveling back to Zurich, go well!     

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